By: Nick B.
Losing is the hardest part of being a competitive athlete. I have been on both sides; one in jubilation of accomplishing what was set out for at the beginning of the season, the other, on one knee with tears in the eyes, watching the other team celebrate their victory.
The lessons I learned through sports are endless. Like any other athlete, I could carry on for hours with stories and what I learned from these experiences. I was fortunate enough to have some success over the years, winning a few provincial championships and the odd tournament here and there. But, the most significant lessons and memories don’t come from my success. The times and places where I learned and grew the most came from the losses.
The competition element of sports is being challenged in youth sport and the prospect of winning and losing is being replaced with a participation and fair play based mentality. I will concede that this may be a step in the right direction towards eliminating the over-competitive nature in youth sports, but it is a few steps too far. Competition is a part of sport. Oxford Dictionary defines Sport as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Part of the reason we compete in sport is for the feeling you get during competition. It is a big part of the experience.
One of the biggest things I learned from losing was how to win. As a 12 year old, I had the privilege to pay on a stacked Pee Wee hockey team that went undefeated through an entire regular season. The only loss of that whole year came in the Provincial Championship game. This was a devastating shock to seventeen 12-year-olds who hadn’t lost a hockey game in over 6 months as a group. Two years later, most of that Pee Wee team was re-assembled and we worked our way back to the Bantam Provincial Finals. We were able to win this game with inspiration and lessons we had learned 2 years before. A similar situation happened when I played High School hockey. We took a strong team to the finals, only to come up short again. One year later, and one year more experienced, we were back in the provincial finals. Playing with much more confidence and composure, we were able to win that game in overtime. The same principles could be translated to adulthood. You could apply for a job and be denied. But through the process, there are lessons to be learned and experience to be gained that could help when the next job opportunity comes around. Aerosmith summed it up well in their song “Dream On”, You got to lose to know how to win.
Although losing isn’t the most enjoyable aspect of sport, it can still contribute to positive youth development. Coaches and parents need to help develop the proper attitude around losing. If youth are taught how to “lose properly” then they can develop the skills that can only be learned through losing.