The Art of Losing

I recently had the honor of coaching my son’s U9 lacrosse team.  As a culminating event, we participated in a 2-day tournament along with several other Metro Atlanta teams.  The weather was beautiful and the competition was great!  However, as I coached our games and watched several others, I began to notice a pattern develop.  When teams began to face adversity and ultimately lose a game, storm clouds would roll in despite the cloudless skies.  Parents would inevitably begin screaming at the other team, blaming the referees, and demanding retribution.   Instead of greeting their children with smiles following the game, they would instead seek out a coach, referee, or another parent to demonstrate their disgust, all in plain view of their sons.  What message is this sending their child?  Frustrated and disgusted, I was inspired to send the following message to the parents of my team.

It’s always tough to end the season with a loss.  However, losing can be such a positive learning experience for all of us.  It’s easy to make excuses and justify each loss by blaming the referees or the other team’s aggressive style of play, the weather, or the bumpy uneven playing field.  What does this actually accomplish?  Sometimes we just need to accept that we simply scored less points than the other team.  Losing is becoming a lost art form.  It’s our job to teach our gang that it’s okay to come out on the short end, even if as parents, we feel there was an unfair advantage.  Let’s use it as motivation and reflect on what we can do as an individual or team to better our chances next time. Let our children develop their own mechanism to handle defeat. Allow our players to be kids and have fun.  Let’s model gracious behavior both in victory and defeat.  Following a tough loss, the last thing our guys want to do is dwell on it.  Losing is not the end of the world.  A positive character is what will make our budding sons into great men.  That is priceless.  

The way a child handles failure can help them to face the certain failures life will throw them in the future.  The worst thing for us to do as parents is give negative advice and justify every loss with excuses immediately after a disappointment.  We need to let our children cope in their own way.  In my experience as a teacher and coach, a child generally takes about 1-2 minutes to recover from a loss.  Then they just want to play, have fun, or take a trip to Dairy Queen.  Together, let’s win back the art of losing!

18 thoughts on “The Art of Losing

  1. Maryellen Berry

    Wow! This should be a message in every parent handbook, Justin. Losing is hard. Winning graciously is hard. Regardless, we need to teach our children about both and model the behavior that we ultimately want from them. I am grateful that we have you at Trinity School, making this happen daily for our students.

  2. Justin,
    Watching so many games, I have seen exactly what you experienced. So many times, it’s the adults who unfortunately move to a lack of sportsmanship so quickly. In the more extreme cases, one can see it in the child’s behavior as well. Like you, I preach (yes, on the soapbox!) that the greatest evidence of a fabulous athlete is his/her sportsmanship– winning graciously without showboating, losing admirably with a focus on what can be adjusted for next time, collaborating with teammates and opponents with respect, and having fun!
    Children are blessed to have you as a teacher and coach!

  3. This is so true and so beautifully expressed, Justin. I love Trinity’s focus on good sportsmanship in a world where the tendency is to be so competitive that we sometimes lose sight of the purpose of sports. Competition is a good thing. Winning is a good thing. But losing is as well, as you point out so eloquently in your post. Losing teaches children so many lessons! Thanks for this post!

  4. Brian Balocki

    Justin, you are an incredible role model for our students,colleagues, and parents at Trinity School. Thank you for reminding us all that sport is an incredible vehicle for our boys and girls to mature into self-confident, caring, and respectful adults. If we (adults) take on the responsibility of being positive role models for our children/students! Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Well said, Justin! Those kiddos are lucky to have you as a coach!

  6. English Norman

    Very well said and so true! Good sportspersonship never goes out of style.

  7. Lorrie Allegra

    Coach Cahill-
    Thank you for your words. Your teachings and messages relay an always positive awe inspiring attitude that is building our young children into great men and women. For that, I thank you!

  8. Antonne Broussard

    Well said.. Sadly, I have witnessed this too many times to count–on soccer fields and basketball courts.

    Let us bring back good sportsmanship!

    It takes a village…

  9. Justin – I have seen you demonstrate and coach sportsmanship as a PE teacher. So grateful my girls have had you has a teacher/coach. Thank you for all you do each and every day!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this Justin! You are a fantastic role model for our children, and we are so blessed to have you teach at Trinity. Good sportsmanship is so very important in all arenas of life!

  11. Justin,

    This is fantastic and so true. It’s something I will re-read going forward as I help coach my kids. My 3 are lucky having you as their coach. Keep up the great work!

  12. Manuela Kelly

    Thank you, coach. Kaelan has thoroughly enjoyed you as a coach and on a personal level I am actually glad when his team loses (and it does somewhat often) because I know that at a young age he’s being taught indirectly HOW to handle disappoint and move on. Life’s lessons, such as these, are oftentimes too quickly dismissed as great opportunities to teach a child character and perseverance.

  13. Thank you Justin for this wonderful article! So grateful that my two kids have you as their teacher and role model! It truly takes a village to raise children of character 🙂 Parents need a little Dairy Queen too!

  14. Kim Hockstein

    Thank you Justin for these wonderful words and for being such an amazing coach and teacher! Ryan has learned so much from you this year and we feel blessed that both our boys have had you as their PE coach. Thank you for all that you do!

  15. Kelly Buschmann

    Well said, Justin. You are an amazing role model for our children and for us parents. Our Trinity Community is lucky to have you!

  16. Natalie Conte

    Thank you, Coach Cahill – such a great life lesson! As with others, Christian is so fortunate to have you and your leadership skills to emulate. Well done!

  17. Kristi Story

    Preach, brother! So proud to teach in the same school as you.

  18. Erin Secretarski

    Love this … refreshing and uplifting perspective. Thank you! Jay’s baseball team is 1 win and I have no idea how many losses this season…I recently read a blog that reminded me of what my mom always said to me after competing “I just love watching you play!” …I’ve been throwing that out a lot lately, and it’s the truth, what a joy to watch our children compete!

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