It’s OK to Lose

In case I haven’t bragged on my children enough, I really am proud of them. All three have all found a passion to pursue, and even if they don’t stay with the current one(s), they’ve enjoyed the efforts of their endeavors enough that I feel confident that they’ll always find a dream to chase. I worry some though, because they are growing up in a society where everyone has to be a winner because society doesn’t want anyone to feel the hurt of a loss. The appropriately named trophy generation doesn’t understand that the real world really does involve a fair amount of winning and losing. Whether it’s on a sport’s field or in the workplace, it’s a reality. And, I worry because I’ve been successful in sports. No, I don’t win every race, not even close, but we do have a lot of medals, plaques, and trophies around the house. I have always tried to convey that I work hard, train hard, and race hard, and sometimes, it pays off with a win. I try to let them see that when a race doesn’t go my way, I’m disappointed, but I’m OK. I also try to tell them about the times when the race did go my way, and it just wasn’t good enough for the win. What I hope is that they realize that a loss doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can even be positive and motivating.

This weekend, Monkey and her volleyball team had their first tournament of the club season. She has a great team, and 8 out of the 11 returned from last year. They really have a great chemistry, they have two great coaches who they admire and respect, and they have high expectations for themselves this season. Saturday was a great day for them. They had a few cobwebs to dust off early in the day, but they listened to their coaches, made quick, smart adjustments, and rolled through the day with success – 6-0 in pool play and into the gold bracket with a first-round bye on Sunday.

I try not to be “that parent” that critiques and coaches every move she makes. For starters, we pay good money to her coaches to do that. I know that she doesn’t need to hear all of the “get lower,” “move your feet faster,” or “hit your target” comments from us all the time. She needs to hear that we have confidence in her; she needs to know that we are proud of her no matter what happens.

Saturday evening brought the news that they would play one of two teams from one of the more “feared” clubs in the region, and one of those teams was a boys’ team. (I’ll save my comments about boys playing in a girls’ league for another day.) She was nervous, but she believes in herself and in her team, so she was confident that they would hold their own. But, I know the look that she had in her eyes well… the look of “I know what I need to do. Please, God, let me do it. Please don’t let me screw up.” So, I try to coach her psyche… and let me tell you how challenging that can be with a teenage girl.

We talked about visualizing plays:

  • “What does this play look like?”
  • “If this happens, I do that.”
  • “If it doesn’t work, I try again and make this change.”

She was in good spirits, ready to play, and really anxious to take down the boys.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the day played out on Sunday. That said; by all accounts, Monkey had a fabulous match. (I was at work, so I had to get my updates from Amy and others.) Monkey’s a setter, so she doesn’t hit much, and she had a corner-shot kill in the first set. (That was a BIG deal to her.) She served well, she set well, and she made smart plays. She showed that she has been listening to her coaches and is learning to read the defense, turning that into two deep setter dumps that won points.

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Nevertheless, those big brown eyes were teary with disappointment at the outcome. When I asked her if there was anything she would change about the way she played if she had it to do over again, she mentioned two plays. (Amy could only even remember one of them.) I asked the same question about the team as a whole, and while there were a few mistakes here and there (and some bad calls from what I understand), even she agreed, the team played really well. When I said, “Well, then that’s success,” she looked at me like I had two heads. Sometimes, you can have the performance of your life, and it’s still not going to put you on top…and that’s OK. It’s OK to lose. Let it motivate you. Let it push you. Let it make you better. And trust me, the victory will be even sweeter.

We talked more, and when she headed off to school today, she was in much better spirits about the outcome of the tournament. They had a great showing; things just didn’t go their way. So, when she heads back to the gym tonight, she can do so with her head held high. She worked hard. They worked hard. They can take the momentum from the many things they did well, work on some of the mistakes, and because the hurt is still fresh, push themselves to even higher levels. It’s going to be a fun season to watch!

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