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TeamGirls

“We lost AGAIN!” – navigating the ups and downs of competitive sport

26 August 2021

Rebecca Sparrow

Rebecca Sparrow is Suncorp’s #TeamGirls ambassador and a best-selling author, columnist, podcast host and passionate advocate for teenage girls. Rebecca regularly visits high schools to present to students, and has developed a range of resources to help girls navigate their way through their formative years.

Follow Bec's work on Facebook or visit rebeccasparrow.com. You can even catch Bec on the #TeamGirls in 10 podcast series.

It’s easy to love sport when you’re winning.

It’s easy to be gracious. To feel resilient. To be excited to turn up to training. It’s easy to feel enthusiastic. To put in 100% effort.

But losing a game? Actually, losing EVERY WEEK? Well, that’s a little harder. When your child’s team is on a losing streak it can make training seem pointless (to them and maybe you!)  and it can often feel embarrassing or even humiliating for our kids.

We all know that losing is actually good for us. One of the great benefits of playing sport is that the bubble wrap comes off our kids the moment they walk onto the court or field or enter the pool.  Sure, we sign our kids up for sport for the mental and physical health benefits and the feeling of belonging it brings.  But we also sign them up because sport – perhaps more effectively than anything else - teaches our kids how to lose graciously, how to take feedback and how to find the joy in the smallest of wins even if those wins are not reflected on the score board.

That sounds nice in theory but is cold comfort when our kids slump into their seats on the car ride home after yet another loss.

As parents there’s a lot we can do when our kid's team is the ‘Mighty Ducks’ of a sporting competition.

  • Do talk about the loss or losing streak at home. When we refuse or avoid talking about a match or losing streak it sends our kids a clear message that losing is so terrible or embarrassing it cannot even be mentioned. It also undermines the message that playing sport is about more than winning.
  • Do support the coach and the other players.  Maybe little Susie or Sam played atrociously and that’s why your child’s team bombed out. But keep those thoughts to yourself. Blaming your child’s team-mates or their coach sets the tone for your child to think and do the same. Every child has an off-day on court or on the field and we need to model that grace.
  • Do focus on your own child’s small victories from the game. Maybe they intercepted more passes, scored more goals, achieved a personal best? Small wins can be just as important as big ones and it helps give your child perspective. And remind your child that it’s also about having fun out there and feeling part of a team. The joy of sport isn’t in winning every match.
  • Do be the adult in the room. Being angry with your child because their team lost is a fast-track to damaging your parent-child relationship. Enough said.

When it comes to articulating the mindset you need to handle sporting wins and losses, I don’t think there’s anyone better than Australian swimmer Cate Campbell.

Following a disappointing performance in the 50m freestyle at the recent Tokyo Olympics, Cate spoke openly about what she needed to tell herself when it came to getting back out there to swim the 100m freestyle race in front of the world. "Obviously I was a little disappointed with my 50m freestyle earlier, but I just told myself that you find out what you're made of in the times when things don't go your way; not when things are working well for you … I took that mindset into this race, and I thought you had to be brave and get back out there."

And that’s it in a nutshell.  You’ve got to be brave and get back out there whether the whole world is watching or not.

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