Nike used the slogan “You don’t win silver — you lose gold” during the 1996 Olympic Games. It was quite controversial as it essentially implied that even if you won a silver medal (making you second best in a specific event in the entire world), you were a “loser”.
Two decades on and the tables have turned. Today, our children are taught that everyone is a winner. Unfortunately, if your child expects a positive outcome from every competitive situation, he will never learn how to deal with losing, which is an inevitable part of real life.
At most schools, a variety of sports are already in full swing and, while nobody likes to lose – children tend to show just how much they hate losing by breaking down into sobs or by storming off in frustration – it is important to teach your child about good sportsmanship and losing gracefully if he wants to take part.
Here are a few tips to teach your child how to play – and lose – like a champ:
- Play fair: It might seem easier to win by cheating, but a good sportsman wants to win because he followed the rules and played the best game he could.
- Watch your mouth: Stay focused on the game instead of getting angry with teammates, coaches or referees. Avoid arguing and never use bad language.
- Respect your opponent: Whether you win or lose, it’s important to show respect for your opponent’s efforts. If you lose, accept defeat, acknowledge your opponent’s abilities and move on.
- Encourage others: If you are playing on a team, praise your teammates for what they do well and support them when they make mistakes. Avoid criticism and unkind actions.
- End with a handshake: A good sportsman enjoys the game and knows how to end it on a positive note, whether or not he won.
There is much more to be gained from the sports experience than a winning record. In fact, teaching your child to be both a gracious loser and a humble winner is an important life skill. In sport, as in life, threats, anger, criticism and other negative expressions towards others are not acceptable. By learning to respect others on the track or field, your child will grow into an adult who shows consideration for others, even in tough situations.
Finally, remember that all children observe and imitate the significant adults (parents, teachers and coaches) in their lives, so make sure that you model positive values and respectful behaviour – especially when you are shouting from the sidelines!