I think it is great when children enjoy sports with a bit of competitive flair. Succeeding at a sport builds confidence and keeps our young people energetic and healthy. But one of the most important things that sports can teach us is how to lose.
If you follow BalancingMama on Facebook, you may have seen the recent conversation that came from our volleyball tournament experience. Our six-to-eight-year-old girls had their first tournament the other day to close out the winter volleyball season. The bracket was set up in a weird way, with winners moving on to the championship match and losers playing a consolation match. Not a typical tournament situation, but we all understood the schedule going into the day. Alas, our girls- team did not win their first match, so we were placed in the consolation game.
The parents decided not to play it.
The parents felt like it was "pointless" to play again since we could not win the tournament. They mentioned that only first and second place would get medals... so why play that last game?
Um... because it is fun? Because the girls can get more play time? Because it is the last hurrah of our volleyball season? Because it was on the schedule and we all knew what the bracket entailed?
How about to teach our girls how to lose?
I was against leaving that day in a forfeit of the final game. My daughter wanted to play and she didn't understand why so many parents refused to stay. Yes, she enjoyed her ice cream with a few teammates instead, but we could have done that after the consolation game, anyway.
I know in our youth sports "career", we will probably encounter poor sportsmanship often. I just wish it wasn't so. Kids need to play the sports they love because they love it. They should be proud of their winning accomplishments, but understand that losing is part of the game. There always has to be a loser. Sometimes in life, that loser is going to be you... or us. Losing teaches us how to find the good in a situation and enjoy what we can. Losing teaches us to face disappointment but contain it. To keep it within the realm of that one situation and to not allow it to take over our happiness.
In life, we will all lose somewhere. We can decide it is all pointless and go home, or we can smile and play again simply because it is fun.