Everyone loves to win, there is no denying that. And while the easiest way to tell who won is simply by looking at the scoreboard, as legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored.” It’s entirely possible for a team to win by playing dirty, just like it’s also possible another team could play the best game of their life and still lose. Losing can certainly take some of the fun out of youth sports, but it doesn’t have to ruin the entire season (even if the team your child is on loses more than it wins), as long as you remember to look at and celebrate the little victories.
1. Individual growth.
Look at your child’s skill level at the beginning on the season and compare it to the end of the season. Have they gotten even a little bit faster, stronger, or more accurate in their skills? For instance, in baseball are they able to throw from base-to-base on the fly? A young player might actually have a hard time doing that their first season, so how have they grown by the end of the year? In soccer, are they more comfortable shooting with their non-dominant foot? In basketball, are they finally nailing that layup? It’s hard to become a superstar in one season, but how much have their developed as their own athletes?
2. Team growth.
Most youth sports are team-oriented. After all, it’s hard to throw and catch a football by yourself! So take a look at how your team has grown over the season, or even just during an individual game. Did they turn a double-play? Did they execute a complicated running play? Were all the players where they needed to be to stop the other team from scoring? Coming together as a team is a big deal for youth athletes, especially if they have never played together before! So celebrate how far the team has come as a whole this season and remember that no matter what their season record is, as long as they had fun, played hard, and worked together it was a good season.
3. Proud moments.
Sometimes you don’t have to win to make headlines. We’ve all heard plenty of news stories about parents getting into fights at games, but stories of good sportsmanship, teamwork, and camaraderie deserve more attention than they get. When you child or their teammate does something notable, like helping a hurt teammate (or even the competition), that’s worth celebrating. When they stay late at practice to help the coach clean up without being asked, that’s worth acknowledging. An athlete can mess up a play, their team can lose a game; but when they do something kind or brave that is a moment worth recognizing! At the end of the day, youth sports isn’t about the final score; it’s about helping our kids become the best versions of themselves and if they show that version on the field than it was a good season.