Do You Want Your Kid To Be A Loser?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I know what you’re thinking, “Of course, Paul! I want my son to hang out in somebody’s garage huffing paint while discussing the virtues of neck tattoos.” Amen.

Sadly, we are not quite there, yet. Today’s question involves whether I want Malcolm’s sports teams to be any good. He had his first game the other week, and it did not go well. The other team was aggressive, made spectacular plays and knew how to kick the ball more than five feet. Malcolm’s team, perhaps recognizing the brilliance on the other side of the ball, mostly watched passively as the other team run circles around them. The final score was 6-0 and we didn’t score even when the other team removed half of their players to make things more equitable.

Some coaches would be concerned at the results, especially when the assistant coaches quietly murmur to the other parents that they would do a MUCH better job of coaching than I. I am not troubled. Luckily, Malcolm’s league is not competitive at this age, meaning no official score is kept and there are no standings to display the ineptitude of our little guys. Even so, I am kind of glad that his team sucks.

First, I want the kids to listen to me. If they jumped out of the gate beating the pants off the other team, they might tune me out when I try to teach them things at practice, thinking to themselves, “Blow on the whistle all you want fat man, we are dominating this league!” Instead, I get to yell things like, “You want to get shut out again this week? Keep bunching up around the ball then.” Losing badly just might make the kids willing to listen to advice like, “Pass the ball!” or “Stand up and watch the game!”

Second, I want the kids to learn to love the game and gauging success by the progress they make. Little boys are competitive to the point where they get into arguments over who is most competitive. (After a talk with them about not being so competitive, they got into a contest about who could be the least competitive. You gotta love little kids!) Early success only tells kids that they have less to learn than they might think. Instead, I want them to just have a good time out there and enjoy the little things like making a pass or actually stopping the ball from going into the goal.

For sure, winning makes you feel better than losing. Nobody pops champagne for being the worst team, (even though losing teams are probably more in need of alcohol than winners!) If, however, your child only enjoys the game when the outcome goes their way, they are eventually going to stop playing the game. Losing is part of life, and if you can just accept the fact that you are going to lose, it frees you up to enjoy the game and try to get better. It is much easier to teach this to kids when they lose all the time, so I am hoping that his team continues to underperform. Oh, the lessons we’ll be able to give!

That way, when Malcolm gets a neck tattoo later in life, it will read, “Play hard, have fun.”


4 responses to “Do You Want Your Kid To Be A Loser?”

  1. Laurie says:

    Totally agree. Teams that know losing do not get big heads and become overconfident jocks. They learn how to keep trying and, by God, one day if they manage a win they know true happiness!

  2. dennyp says:

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. Just one thing: As long as the kids are trying to win. I don’t mind the losing(and the ability to teach the game)as long as they aspire to win. I think our society and it’s emphasis on always having fun, is a little off. I think we need to teach kids that sometimes in life you lose, as you said. I think always giving kids participation awards sends them a poor message, that if they show up and try they are entitled to something. That’s not how life works. Now, saying that, it seems like your son is a similar age as my daughter, and I coached her T-Ball team this year. The age group was too young to worry about winning. It was more important to teach them the basics. Winning and losing will come later. Have I made any sense?

    • It’s a fine line between encouraging participation and motivating the kids. You want them to be proud of their involvement to keep them playing. But, at some point you’re right. You shouldn’t shine them. There are leagues here that have two tracks: one competitive and the other for fun. Not sure which I want for Malcolm in the future.

      You’re also right about winning not mattering at this age, so many kids are just getting started, so to focus on them winning instead of just learning to play would suck.

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