Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

US Youth Soccer Twitter

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Olive Garden

Nesquik - The Taste They'll Love

Play Positive Banner

Print Page Share

Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Nickel and Dime

Susan Boyd

Don’t kid yourself. When you bring your sweet 6-year-old into the soccer store to get her first kit, you’re starting down a long road of financial obligation. Sure, that uniform bundle with its tiny, cute black cleats, mini shin guards, and crisp jersey and shorts only costs $30. The store may even throw in a ball. You and your child are hooked. Like the wicked queen offering Snow White the apple, the sales clerk practically cackles. He knows you’ll be back, and next time won’t be such a bargain. This is the tale for all youth activities. If your son gets good at the trumpet, that used instrument you rent monthly won’t do any longer. Piggy-back that expense with the private lessons beyond what he learns in school band.  Actors, artists, musicians, athletes and scholars manage to drain the wallet as they grow, improve, and narrow their passions. Soccer is no exception. Sure, one reason soccer is so popular world-wide is because it really only requires something round to kick. But as players grow, improve and focus, they can’t develop with a cantaloupe. They need money.

The uniform is just the beginning. Kids outgrow cleats quickly, and the bigger their feet, the higher the cost. Those tiny size 3 cleats may come in a package deal, but eventually kids morph into the “real” cleats with real price tags. Junior cleats can be under $100, but all too soon they become $150 to $250. Trust me, your children won’t want the utilitarian cleats, they want the ones Messi wears or the electric orange ones or the super lightweight ones, which ironically use the least materials and cost the most. Instead of a single jersey and pair of shorts, kids will need a home and an away jersey, warm-ups, a bag, and Nike Hyperwarm gear for those cold days. It won’t stop at what they need; it piles on with what they want. They’ll want their idol’s uniform, and while you’ll try to steer them to the practice jersey, they’ll want the game shirt at double the cost. Balls can be inexpensive, but I guarantee that eventually you’ll need to spring for the pricier version even the budget-busting commemorative ones.  

Kids will play on recreation teams for a minimal cost as they start out. Those are the salad days, when the check you write doesn’t equal the mortgage payment. Enjoy it while it lasts. Later, when making the decision to move up to a select club, you want to verify that your player is ready for that commitment and that you are willing to foot the financial obligation. While not really bait and switch, you need to keep in mind that whatever fees the club charges for being on a team are just a starting point of expenses. Even if you and your family don’t travel with the player to tournaments and away games, there will still be substantial costs for those events. Beyond transportation costs there will be lodging, meals, and support such as sports drinks and snacks. You’ll need to multiply these costs by the number of family members who attend. You might think it’s silly to mention, but we spent quite a bit on tournament T-shirts, programs, photos, and DVDs – a hidden cost that adds up over the years. Since these costs can be prohibitive for some families, it’s a good idea to buddy up with other families to share the expenses. Players sharing a room and transportation can really help out. Some clubs will rent a bus for tournaments in driving range. That can significantly reduce expenses.  

Many parents, in the hopes of their child getting a college athletic scholarship, will pay for private lessons and fitness training. It can get really pricey, really fast. Playing soccer at a college level is an honor, which I think is worthy of striving towards. But if parents think that a scholarship is going to cover all the costs, they are mistaken. Even the best players rarely get a full ride. If an out-of-state student plays at a state-funded university, he will pay the out-of-state tuition. Players who attend a private school may end up with a bigger bill than if they paid full tuition at one of their own state schools. If you took all the money you spent on soccer over the years, invested it in a conservative college fund, you’d probably have more money for your child’s education than any athletic scholarship they might earn. Therefore, before writing lots of checks, be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: your child loves soccer and loves playing at a top level. Everything else will just be icing on the cake. Don’t go into debt if you can help it, and definitely don’t short-change other kids in order to support one.

Beware of the camps, which many colleges and universities offer with the promise that your child will be scouted by their coaches. Any player who contacted a college coach or plays on a high school team or plays on a competitive select team will receive the email invitations. These are phrased by the same people who tell you you’ve won a Caribbean cruise. When you read them, you believe you’re one of a very select group. Remember that these camps are huge money-makers for the schools and area coaches. Yes, the player will be seen by a variety of coaches, but these camps may not be the most efficient and powerful way to get noticed. They are certainly not the most cost-effective unless the camp is run by a number of institutions, rather than just one. They run around $300-$800 not counting transportation to and from. If your child is looking at just five (although most look at around 10) programs, you’re looking at a first year’s tuition just to attend camps – probably not the wisest use of your money. Schools will also imply that if your player doesn’t attend the camp, he or she will not be considered by the program. Hogwash! No recruitment program is going to pass on a great player just because she didn’t attend their summer camp. I’m not suggesting players shouldn’t attend a camp or two, but be smart. Consider camps at institutions your child has a chance of entering. Stanford and Notre Dame may not be realistic if grades and test scores aren’t sterling. Top 20 programs probably won’t consider a player who isn’t already being heavily recruited. On the other hand, some schools will join forces, so for the same amount of money as an individual camp a player can be seen by up to 10 schools. Another category of camps are those run by famous coaches who promise to improve a player’s skill and fitness. Check the reputation of these programs before submitting your credit card. Some are better than others, and since these can be the most expensive because they focus on training, you want to be sure they address the strengths and weaknesses of your child. Finally, there are the overseas opportunities. Players won’t necessarily be scouted or trained, but they will get a much broader view of soccer and how it is played outside of America. There are some significant benefits to these camps, which have little to do with getting a scholarship or improving skills. Getting an expanded world view in this increasingly global economic, political and social atmosphere can be invaluable for students. Plus, having the experience of playing with and against teams outside of the U.S. does look good on the resume. 

I’ve stored away each son’s first kit. They will be a good reminder of where the passion began. They are also a good reminder of where all our retirement savings went. Bronzing the shoes would be a small investment compared to the tens of thousands we spent over the years. However, I don’t regret a dime of those expenditures. We shared some amazing adventures as a family, our sons had the opportunity to commit to and succeed at their passion, and we all had a full lives. Soccer is a language we can speak even when we might be uncomfortable with other discussions, and it will always be an enthusiasm we shared. Each family needs to decide how much they are willing to do financially. No one needs to feel guilty should they have to say no to any opportunity because of financial reasons. There is plenty of soccer available that can be played and enjoyed for less money. Our sons played on their college teams with players who had far more training and scouting than they had and those who had far less. Good soccer players will be noticed even if they are wearing used cleats and last year’s jersey.

Comments (1)

 

“Winning Excuses Everything” – Cam Newton

Susan Boyd

“Deflate Gate” is just one scandal in a long series of alleged or actual attempts to cheat in order to secure a win. We can go back to the 1919 World Series where a group of Chicago White Sox players agreed to throw games in order for high rollers to win big on their bets. In 1980, Rosie Ruiz supposedly won the Boston Marathon with a time 20 minutes faster than any of her other previous races. Her win, however, was assisted by the Boston subway, which she rode to the finish line and then rejoined the race. Even I could win a marathon using that ploy. Lance Armstrong eventually admitted to doping during his unprecedented seven Tour de France wins. He claims doping was done by all, and he had to do it to stay competitive. Just before the 1994 U.S. figure skating competition, Tonya Harding tried to remove her main challenger, Nancy Kerrigan, by having her whacked on the knee with a metal baton at the end of a practice session. Despite being unable to compete in the championship, which Harding won, Kerrigan was voted onto the Olympic team, going on to win silver while Harding only placed eighth. On a far more serious scale than deflating balls, the New Orleans Saints were accused in 2012 to have run a bounty program paying players who seriously injured their opponents. While never definitively proven, the defensive coordinator admitted there was a pool of money to reward players for “good hits.” Four players received suspensions, which were all appealed and eventually reduced or vacated. 

This win-at-any-cost attitude isn’t admirable or acceptable, but it also isn’t surprising given the amount of money winning provides in professional or high level amateur sports. It’s not just about getting the X in the win column, or the trophy, or the medal. It’s about getting a huge payout in endorsements, signing bonuses, licensing and increased fan base. Athletes with careers that rarely go into their 40s look for payouts that are inflated by winning. A deflated ball, a bribe, a hard hit, or performance-enhancing drugs can mean the difference between being winners who get noticed and everyone else. No wonder Cam Newton believes winning excuses everything. If athletes feel morally bankrupt, they can rationalize like Lance Armstrong. This attitude that “everybody’s doing it” to justify some form of deceit or manipulation absolutely gets noticed by youth players. They are already in the frame of mind to follow the herd (Mom, everybody wears crop tops to school) and to succeed because we live in a world where anything other than a win is considered failure. So these ideas percolate down to youth sports. Add to the mix adults who buy into the theory that their kids, team, and/or school has to win, and the pressure to cheat becomes unavoidable. We’ve all experienced coaches who scream at kids they feel are costing the team a win or argue with referees over the most inconsequential matters because it’s not enough to win the game; they also have to win the arguments.

How do we avoid the pitfalls of winning that excuses everything? The first step would be to resist the urge to overpraise our kids for every little outcome. If they believe that Mom and Dad only seriously value success, they’ll do anything to make that happen. Heidi Stevens, in her article, “In Criticism of Praise,” for the January issue of Southwest: The Magazine, gives some excellent guidelines for not overdoing the approval of our kids’ activities. For example, if your child scores the game-winning goal there’s no need to be overly effusive. There will be several dozen more games to follow that accomplishment, and she probably won’t score the game winner every time or even ever again. So she could end up considering her good team play as failure because she didn’t equal that moment of glory. Simply saying, “Way to go.  All that practice paid off,” lets her know you recognize the result of good effort, but that honest effort is the primary factor not the outcome. Instead of effusing over a child’s story he wrote for class, engage him in a discussion of what he wrote – tell me how you decided to make the bear your main character. Later you might praise his body of work by noting improvement or how he maintains an interesting voice in all his writing. Put the focus on process rather than on product. Ultimately expressing love is far more important than praise.

Next we should refuse to tolerate boorish behavior in the name of winning. Youth sports clubs should focus on fun, but in reality clubs face the same issues of money on a smaller scale as professional franchises do. A club that can attract players who win matches and championships have excellent PR for recruiting even more participants. The more kids in a club, the more fees, and the more coaches get jobs. Therefore, the pressure to succeed is tremendous. It’s understandable to have winning as the objective. As the old saying goes, “If winning doesn’t matter, then why do we keep score?” The difference is how the adults approach the challenge. There should be no belittling of players during or after a game. Parents on the sideline need to refrain from yelling, criticizing and coaching. Kids can’t operate under that kind of pressure. Teenagers especially react strongly to harsh instruction. Fun and winning aren’t mutually exclusive activities despite what many adults believe. It’s up to us to speak to the problems calmly but firmly. Often coaches and parents don’t even realize how ugly their behavior has become. Once our team and families were watching a DVD of a championship game, and it was cringe-worthy as parents heard how they sounded and coaches saw how they behaved. It led to a good discussion about how we could all step up and be better examples. Don’t be afraid to speak up when things get out of hand.

Addressing dirty play as a way to secure a win can be (excuse the pun) difficult to tackle. At a U-10 match during a tournament, the coach and several parents of the opposing team were encouraging their players to take our players out. “Hit his ankles. Get his knees. Take him down.” Play got very chippy and the poor 13-year-old referee couldn’t control it. No one on our team, myself included, spoke to the opposing coach after the game or the tournament director, and I regret that decision because we tacitly provided approval for such bad manners. With our own player and team we need to be vigilant for instances when kids get too violent. Good coaches will pull these kids from the pitch and let them calm down before instructing them on good sportsmanship. As parents, we need to let our kids know that we won’t tolerate dirty play. We told our sons that if they got a yellow card for dissent or a foul, we wouldn’t be happy, but we would understand that’s part of the game. However, if they got any card, especially a red, for vicious play, they would be sitting out a few games. We only had to institute the punishment once, so I think forewarning helped them think before they acted. If your child’s coach encourages dirty play, then you need to consider if that’s the environment you want for your player. Chances are you can’t change that, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. You may just need to find another coach/club.

Finally, we should redefine success in all endeavors. The sports duality model of a winner and a loser spills over into so many of our kids’ activities. Earning an A is seen as a win and anything else is seen as a loss. Being first chair in the orchestra is success and all other positions are failure. Getting an art project chosen to be displayed is a victory and being left out of the exhibit is a defeat. Therefore, kids will do just about anything to be the winner since that role is so narrow and specific. We need to help our kids move from that binary approach to success and discover what true winning can be. Over-celebrating the big success diminishes the smaller successes that don’t fit into the “first-place finish” category. In fact, those big shows of approval only lend credence to the theory that winner take all is the only thing that matters. According to a recent study by the Ad Council, 75 percent of students admit to cheating in order to get A’s (not just better grades). Obviously, students have lots of pressures to compete because they are trying to get into the best colleges. However, as a college instructor, I have seen students who are working on the thin edge of their abilities and achieve success through cheating often end up failing at the university. At a high school freshmen parents’ meeting for my youngest daughter, the big question was how we get our kids into Ivy League schools. When I asked how many of the parents had attended an Ivy League school, not a single hand went up. Instead of seeing entering college as a win, they only saw entering the top colleges in America as a win. This pressure to accomplish some inflated definition of winning leads to a lack of integrity in the effort because there’s no way to get there honestly. We need to start redefining success and then applauding that success. 

Confident people have a more realistic view of what constitutes a win and can actually achieve more under that view. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor, conducted a study that was reported in Steven’s article. In the study, Dweck presented young students with problems that were far beyond their ability to resolve, but she wanted to see how they reacted to the challenge. Some kids dissolved into tantrums and tears seeing their inability to solve the problems as failure. Some coped with the situation accepting that they couldn’t find a solution. However, surprising to Dweck was a group of kids who loved the challenge, happy to struggle with the situation and unfazed when they couldn’t find an answer. As she put it, “they acted like it was a gift.” These kids had learned not to see the world as win and lose, but as a spectrum of situations that had to be met and attempted. They had a spirit of adventure looking at the journey more than at the destination. In a follow up study she gave a group of fifth graders an IQ test. Along with their scores she offered two different praises. To one group she said “You must be smart at this,” and to another group she said “You must have tried really hard.” Then she offered the kids a chance to take another test but they could choose whether to take an easier test than they had just finished or a harder test. The majority of the kids told they were smart opted for the easier test and those praised for effort primarily selected the harder test. The “smart” group didn’t want to risk their status of being smart by challenging themselves with a tougher test they might “fail.”  The “effort” group had the freedom to push themselves because they could then further the level of their effort in the eyes of the scorer. Winning was seen as working harder, not in getting a higher score.

As a writing teacher I’ve come across my share of plagiarism. For some students the cheating stems from laziness – they procrastinate in the assignment or just don’t want to do it. But for the majority of students who cheat, it’s because they recognize a weakness in their writing and don’t want to be judged on that level. It pains me when a student plagiarizes, not because I’m incensed by cheating, but because I know the writer is suffering from feelings of failure. So I use the situation as a teachable moment. I ask the student to rewrite the plagiarized passages in their own words while in my office where we can discuss how to translate the ideas of others into their own opinions. I’ve always said I don’t teach writing; I teach thinking. I want students to be as proud of a C as they are of an A if that C was earned through honest, hard effort. And I want a student to know that improvement is possible through effort.  I don’t agree with Cam Newton that winning excuses everything because winning should be a spectrum of success that builds on previous successes earned with integrity. We can’t all be winners in the model of win/loss, but we can all be winners in the model of process and improvement. I prefer the latter definition.

Comments (0)

 

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Susan Boyd

I really try to be organized. I keep two calendars, one on my kitchen wall and one in my phone, and I still manage to miss appointments. I periodically go through stacks of magazines and catalogs weaning out the ones I still intend to read, though I rarely do. About once a week, I clear off what we call “the high kitchen table,” an island where almost every piece of mail, important folders and pamphlets, and forms land, and then end up going through the recycle bin in a panic searching for something important I accidently threw out. I file bills so I can find them to pay them, tackling them regularly, though not always on time. No matter how hard I try, my organization often dissolves into stuffing similar items into plastic containers with the promise that I’ll go through them soon. Most of those, many containing photos and family mementos, remain stacked in the basement. We all struggle with organization and staying on top of the continually growing collections of paper, possessions and responsibilities.  Nowhere is that more pointed than when we try to maintain control over the tangle of sports gear. It seems that no matter what preparations we make we still arrive at our destinations without some important piece of equipment. Even more frustrating, we often discover other products which could be helpful before, during and after a match, but we don’t have them readily available. Soccer should be fun, but when we are tensely scrambling to resolve an urgent situation, it’s difficult to find the enjoyment within the stress.

I’ve spoken about my “soccer box” I keep stocked in my car, but over the years I’ve evolved and streamlined that box. I’ve identified three important categories where parents can be prepared with little effort. Getting organized to address those areas requires just a bit of time and can help ensure that not only do you have peace of mind but that you might also be a hero to the entire team. This began when I made a discovery while getting boxes to help my son pack up his stuff for a move. I went to the grocery store to collect some containers. They had just gotten a big shipment of wine and liquor in, so the boxes they had available were those that held twelve bottles with dividers. The dividers were readily removable, so we took most of them out, but the dividers also proved helpful in containing some smaller and delicate items keeping them safe and organized. As I was packing up, I realized these would make an excellent organizer for a soccer box, keeping the number of items to the dozen someone could place in the box and making them easily accessible. Adding to its utility are the cut-out handle holes making the box easy to transport. If you don’t want people to assume you purchase your alcohol in bulk, you can cover the box with contact paper in a soccer design. Here are my plans for a much leaner and organized soccer box.

Consider the box as having three columns of four compartments each. I organized the columns into my three necessary categories: clothing, equipment and safety/convenience. Let’s begin with clothing. All too often we can arrive at a field without certain uniform pieces or a teammate will be without the full uniform. Therefore one cubicle in the clothing column should hold one light and a one dark T-shirt rolled up. If you happen to have extra uniform shirts you can substitute those, but most of us don’t have that luxury. In the second square, roll up a pair of shorts and a clean pair of underwear (during wet, muddy games you’ll be glad you have these). The third cube should hold two pairs of socks. Finally the fourth square will hold two pairs of knit gloves and a stocking cap. These clothing items will cover you for situations involving missing uniforms and/or inclement weather, so your young player won’t be riding home in soggy, muddy clothes catching cold and destroying your upholstery.

The second column of four squares will be assigned to equipment. Slide a pair of old shin guards in the first two compartments. They may distort the shape a bit, but since the items on either side are soft items, it won’t be difficult or disruptive. In the third square, slip in a hand-held air pump. We’ve all been to games where balls have been chucked into the woods, splashed into the river, or scampered under brambles until the only option left is that raggedy, deflated orb that your pump can now resurrect into the new game ball. The last compartment can hold extra shoelaces, an LED flashlight, and some hand-warming packets.

The third column contains safety and convenience items. Start with a quart-sized zipper bag, which you’ll fill with safety pins, a sewing kit, a small pair of scissors (you won’t believe how often these come in handy), a roll of gauze, a variety of bandages, and white medical adhesive tape. The bundle can be rolled to fit down the divider. The next section will hold cleaning products like facial tissues, alcohol and wet wipes, a small chamois cloth, and cotton balls. You can place these in a quart bag as well, which is both easy to roll up and keeps the products dry. Stuff a bottle of sports drink or water in the third compartment. Finally fill another quart bag with a mechanical pencil, pen, pad of paper, cellophane tape (not in a holder), small roll of colored duct tape (which can be used to add numbers on t-shirts or alter the numbers on jerseys), and a sharpie marker.

The items in this soccer box should cover you and the team in most, if not all, adverse and sudden situations. It won’t take up too much space and will stay neat and organized. Likewise you can get your player’s soccer bag under control to help ensure that all necessary items make it to the field. When you wash uniforms bring the soccer bag into the laundry room and set it by the washer/dryer. That way when you or your child go to grab the bag, it will be a not so subtle reminder that parts may be sitting in the laundry load. You could get a mesh bag or even use a plastic grocery bag to house cleats and shin guards. Keep that bag in clear view in your garage or mud room. I told the boys they couldn’t enter the house until they had knocked clean their cleats, and put them and their shin guards back in their plastic bag. That bag always got placed right at the back door. Some families maintain a checklist on a dry erase board that hangs on the last door the kids exit. They have to check off the items before they can leave the house. That teaches them that are responsible for being fully equipped when they arrive on the field, and if they aren’t, then they can’t expect you to rescue them.

No matter how well you handle the dilemmas of organizing and transporting sports gear, things will get lost, stolen or forgotten. Therefore having a back-up that serves as a safety stop not only for our kids, but for the team, isn’t a bad idea. I keep the box in my trunk year-round, but if I need the space, I can easily remove it and set it in the garage. The advantage of these liquor boxes, besides the wonderful dividers, is that it’s sturdy enough to transport. If you want, you can get a duffle bag to set it in and take it as checked luggage since nothing in it is fragile. Just be sure you have something solid on the top as a cover. The entire box won’t weigh that much and may be just what’s needed to bring peace of mind.

Comments (0)

 

The Eloquence of Losing

Susan Boyd

We’re in the middle of an extended competitive season. The first College Football Playoff Championship ended last Monday and by the time this blog publishes we’ll know the challengers for Super Bowl XLIX. CBS has already begun the Road to March Madness hype. The Golden Globes were last week, the Grammys in two weeks, and Oscar nominees have been announced. We learned the Heisman winner in an announcement that opened the flood of MVP awards destined to last until championship contests end. It’s about winning – dreams of winning, bets on winning, predictions of winning, analysis of winning. And with winning comes its evil twin, losing. We feel the need to explain away our losses with talk about snubs, injuries, lousy coaching decisions and poor officiating. 

Our adulation for winners often clouds other issues. We forgive NFL players for spousal abuse, drug dependencies, and even attempted murder if they can help ensure a win for our team. High schools with strict policies concerning behavior and eligibility will reinstate a student to a team if a teacher expresses the need for the offending student to help win a sports championship or star in the school musical. We end up willing to sell our souls for win, in fact that’s the plot premise of “Damn Yankees.” Our obsession with winning can lead to some unattractive behaviors such as taunting when we win and pouting and blame placing when we lose.

At the recent Golden Globes, George Clooney was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for both his extensive work in films and his tireless efforts highlighting and resolving human rights violations around the world. In his speech he addressed the issue of winners and losers. He expressed that he felt it unworthy for anyone in the room to mope about losing, 80 percent of the nominees lose, and any winner to be overly prideful. Even more significantly, those nominees represent such a small percentage of the pool of possible nominees, everyone who made a film or TV show that year. Further, those lucky enough to work in the industry are another small percentage of those who dream of being in their shoes. His point was that everyone who has realized a dream should be grateful, and not regret being singled out for particular notice. The moment of a win will burn brightly like an exploding nova and then just as quickly fade. We can’t halt time and make a win the all-consuming center of our existence. We all must move on. While we can have some warm fuzzy in our memory, we aren’t defined or sustained by any win.

We understand the language of winning – the pride, the humility, the power. Yet, losing likewise has a noteworthy expressiveness we need to learn to embrace. I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t encourage our children to train as hard as they can, to set high goals, to go for a win, and to enjoy a win when they attain it. Rather, I’m arguing that we place so much emphasis on winning that we neglect to teach our children anything about losing other than as a negative to avoid at all costs. The only universally positive connotation of losing that I can think of is losing weight. Yet children will experience more losses than wins, especially big wins. Florida State had 29 straight wins going into the Rose Bowl this year, but they lost in a rout to Oregon. Watching the team melt down pointed out the difficulty of handling loss when you have no experience with it. The quarterback, after a fumble, went to sidelines and screamed at his coach rather than taking responsibility for his error. There was in-fighting on the team, and players began to blame one another for various failings on the field. The loss was made truly ugly by the team’s inability to cope with it. A week later, coming off the high of that win, Oregon found itself being routed by Ohio State. But the team held together fighting to the end with dignity. Despite being down 22 points with less than a minute to go, they went out and played hoping for at least one more score, reinforcing that the game was more about playing than about winning. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, with no time left on the clock, scrambled in the back field chased by OSU players and then heaved a Hail Mary pass down the field that was intercepted by OSU. So, the Heisman Trophy winner ended his college career not only on a loss, but on an extremely rare interception, only his fourth of the entire season. He didn’t need to do that; he could have simply fallen on the ball since the outcome was sealed. But he believed in fighting and playing. 

We need to listen to the lessons losing can teach our children. People who acknowledge their losses as a natural outcome of trying seem to be less affected by them. Instead of looking for excuses, they look for merits. They work to understand what the loss can teach them about improving and overcoming errors.  They accept that losses happen, but don’t have to be repeated. Humility applies to losses as much as it does to wins. Kids need to learn to be humble enough to accept the loss without assigning blame, which may momentarily mitigate personal embarrassment but does nothing to keep team cohesiveness or reinforce self-esteem. If a child loses an individual honor or contest, it’s important to have perspective, just as Clooney pointed out. Getting to the place where you have the opportunity to win or to lose is a victory in and of itself. Certainly the instant devastation of losing can take the wind out of the sails, but the ability to listen to what the loss can tell us will ultimately make each person stronger. Robbie was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Wisconsin and placed on the ESPN Rise second-team in his senior year of high school. It was a wonderful moment for him and naturally for his proud family. I still have the commemorative bottle of Gatorade awarded to him. But so much life has come after. He had two losing seasons in college and after finally making the NCAA College Cup by winning a very difficult game, his team lost in the first round. Every win, every loss has been but one stepping stone in his hopefully very long life. His brother Bryce was sitting on the bench in his high school senior year as his team lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. His coach was “saving” him for the semis and the finals that never came. So he ended his high school career watching his team lose. Later at a recruiting meeting, the college coach told him, “So what. You have lots of soccer ahead of you.” And he was right.

Helping our children to keep heads up after a loss will have more significance than all our praise for a win. Adulation is an expected result of a win, but not expected with a loss. Therefore, we need to find the positives and illuminate them. Joining in on the blame game only makes losses seem undeserved and unfair, which they aren’t. They are the natural offshoot of competition. So telling a child that the team would have won with better officiating, or if the coach had played her longer, or if it hadn’t been raining, or any other excuse we can make only reinforces the idea that we shouldn’t have to be the recipients of a loss. Yet think about how often we lose every day. I enter the Home and Garden TV contests to win a house (I even use the two entries a day option). Despite trying for the Dream Home, the Urban Oasis, the Smart Home, and the Blog Cabin every year for the past decade, I haven’t won. Go figure. We buy lottery tickets and lose regularly. If we do win, it’s usually a small prize like getting two more free entries. We don’t get all green lights on that trip to the doctor when we’re ten minutes late. For most of us, the college and pro teams we support end up not making it to the finals. We might have an election year of our candidates winning, and then suffer years of watching our candidates lose. We also lose money, car keys, jewelry, important papers and teeth. Rarely can we claim personal vendettas against us in those circumstance. Things happen. We have to be able to shake it off, move on, and avoid rationalizations. 

When Oregon lost the National Championship, the alumni association sent out an email thanking us for our support, encouraging us to thank our team for a great year, and asserting that heroes aren’t always victors, which I thought was a great statement. Replace the word hero with the word player and you have a wonderful reminder for your kids. The important factor is to be a player with integrity, purpose and dignity. Play games with joy, hope and good sportsmanship, win or lose. Find where improvements can be made, and accept the weaknesses which can’t be resolved. If our kids participate in several sports and after-school activities, they will be in situations where they have strength around them and other times when they will not. Yet in all circumstances we need to move towards the endgame and embrace the results which occur. While our children may need to depend on the abilities of others to secure a win (or a good grade), they have to accept that there will be some factors of victory over which they have no control. They can derive pride from their effort and their contribution to whatever results are achieved. At the very least they should be rewarded with respect for working to help others to do well. A loss doesn’t have to be the language of defeat. It can speak in the language of honor, improvement and perseverance. 

Comments (0)

 
usyouthsoccer.org