“It doesn’t matter whether you won or lost, it only matters how you played the game.”
Have you ever said this to your kid when they’ve come off the field as the champion? I bet not. We reserve this tidbit of advice for the kid who lost as a way to make them feel better about their sportsmanship and commitment to the game and good ole’ try. How often does this really work, though? What parent has uttered these words and seen their kid’s frown turn upside down? Again, I’m betting none.
But I did tell this to my daughter after a recent tennis tournament. And not because I wanted her to feel better about her game, but to point out the converse of this little cliché.
The Ultimate Game Changer
“Whether you win or lose, it matters how you play the game."
Winning doesn’t just happen. Skill, of course, is a large part of it, but so is attitude and mental toughness. Without a positive outlook and expectations on winning, the skill could become a null factor. And for many kids, that’s the hardest part.
My daughter played in a singles match in the tennis tournament, which was very different than her other sport, basketball. She was alone, with no-one to cheer her on or bounce play ideas off of. She had to figure out her own strategy.
She takes lessons, goes to practice, and plays on a local team, so she’s pretty confident in her developing skills. Where things get a bit touchy is her mind-set, her mental game. But when she misses a point, you can see her attitude change.
Everyone knows the signs that their kid is getting upset – pouty lips, slumped shoulders, squinty eyes – whatever body language your kid portrays, parents know. So when I see her physical change, I know her game is going to change, too.
And there goes the ball into the net.
And the next one way way out, hitting the wall behind her opponent.
And there’s the double fault.
All of these losing points, of course, only perpetuate the bad attitude. Until she finally gets a ball in, wins a point. And then her mood shifts again and she feels better, and there, there is the perfect lob over the opponent’s head.
Such is her game. It’s consistent when she’s winning, it’s a mess when she’s losing. When she slumps off the court, I don’t tell her that it's okay that she lost, because she didn’t play the game well. I remind her that it was the way she played that caused her to lose. Sometimes, I’ll even show her the video tape and let her watch her own attitude arise and take over her game.
She gets it. She knows. But she’s working on it.
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