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The Season of Winning and Losing- Navigating Big Feelings in Kids Sports

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Girls soccer team with their coach on a green field

In the world of kids sports, winning and losing are integral parts of the game, despite generational best efforts to reward every kid for everything (Gen X Mom rolling her eyes over here- can ya feel it?). And as our littles get older, the competition intensifies. Here at phix, we are moms of sports kids, and while we know that our role is to offer support and guidance through the roller coaster of rainy Saturdays and tumultuous tournaments, we confess that it can be really hard to say the right thing when it comes to winning and losing. So, as the season draws to a close and championship games are upon us, we’ll delve into three key aspects that keep us sane when ALL THE FEELINGS arise.

1. Stay away from the replay (aka let the coach be the coach).

The final score is a big deal to our kids after training hard, and if the ride home is a painful parental play by play AFTER their coach’s post game huddle, they will shut down and start feeling that losing = not good enough. We find that it’s best to leave the game at the field, and engage our kids in conversation about other things once they get in the car- lunch, Taylor Swift, whatever! If they want to talk about the score, we listen, but try to refrain from coaching off the clock. Yes, this can be HARD especially if they weren’t playing their best, but we want to stay in their safe zone. The last thing they need is to think their bad game equals them being bad people. And yes, this goes for winning too! Because once the inevitable loss comes, the consummate winner will doubt everything they believe to be true about their worth too.

2. Look beyond the outcome, and praise effort.

Winning is undoubtedly exciting, and it's an excellent time to celebrate their dedication and teamwork. Yet, losses are equally valuable – they teach resilience, character, and the art of dealing with disappointment. We want our kids to appreciate the process of learning and personal growth, whether in times of victory or defeat. Then they can nurture a love for the game that transcends the scoreboard, and everyone is happy.

When your kid’s team walks away victorious, don't just celebrate the win itself. Give credit to the effort and sportsmanship displayed on the field. Highlight the moments of teamwork, fair play, and unyielding determination. Equally, when the team faces a loss, acknowledge their hard work and dedication. This personal development and character building can take them a long way as they get more competitive, or transition into other interests and activities.

3. Model good behavior- no one likes a bratty winner or a sore loser.

Handling both success and setbacks with grace is easier said than done, especially during these formative years where kids so badly want to be accepted. After a win, it's about showing appreciation for the opposing team's efforts and staying humble. After a loss, it's about demonstrating respect for the other team's skill while maintaining self-esteem and keeping heads up high. We need to model this behavior for our kids, by striking up a convo with a parent from the other team or high fiving a player from that team who did well. We’ve seen some TERRIBLY sore loser parents on the sidelines! And yeah, we’ll admit… we’ve been those parents too. We aren’t exempt! But you know as well as we do that kids see everything, and if we set a good example, they will follow.

For all of you who have kids in playoffs or championships right now, good luck to you! Let us know how it goes, and for sure show us your colors if you've got your phix Teams hair ties rocking! Let’s make sure our kids have a positive and meaningful experience on the field, and learn essential life skills that extend far beyond the game.

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