An infamous race-car driver by the name of Ricky Bobby once said, “If ya’ ain’t first, ‘yer last.”

If ya’ ain’t first, ‘yer last.

Now this isn’t literally true, but when you’re a kid, boy does it sure feel like that sometimes when you don’t win.

As sports moms who are trying to enable our kiddos to be stellar athletes and more-so stellar human beings, one of the key takeaways from youth athletics is the ability to accept a healthy dose of defeat.

Facing failure and disappointment early in life can be an essential learning experience for young people. Extensive research studies conducted on “successful” people have demonstrated that they learned how to turn their early disappointments into an almost insatiable determination to triumph.

6 Losing Lessons that Help Shape Winners

At its core, sports experiences help youngsters learn and practice methods for effectively grappling with defeat–the very quality that many successful people have mastered:

1. Losing subconsciously forces players to analyze mistakes and make performance adjustments to keep from repeating those mistakes.Forget the mistakes. Remember the lessons. Quote about mistakes.

Teach your kids not to pout about a missed ground ball, fester in the disappointment of missing a game-winning shot, or carry the load of and “off-game” full of mistakes, because they’re a part of a life and they’ll happen daily. Instead help them to reposition those mistakes under their feet and use them as stepping stones on a path to greatness.

2. Losing develops compassion for the losses or mistakes of others.

There is such a nobility in the ability to feel and empathize with someone else’s pain. When your child has been in a position of defeat before, they will have a better understanding to be able to help others in their times of disappointment.

3. Mental toughness.

Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Davidson points out that, “Stressful events give us practice at bouncing back from unpleasant emotions. They are like an exercise to strengthen our ‘happiness muscles,’ or a vaccination against melancholy.”

4. Losing may help a player become more meditative.

Not in a yoga-esque sense, but the more opportunity we give our kids to be introspective, the more likely they are to be thoughtful later on.

“Stressful events give us practice at bouncing back from unpleasant emotions. They are like an exercise to strengthen our ‘happiness muscles,’ or a vaccination against melancholy.”


5. The athletes who’ve faced the most defeat will appreciate success the most.

Success requires preparation, commitment and patience! The harder it is to come by, the more it will be desired and appreciated in the end.


6. Losing cultivates an improved work ethic and a resolve to try harder in future undertakings.

Athletes who frequently lose or who are only moderately successful, often find a burning desire within to excel in future pursuits.  They are also instilled with an awareness that sometimes it’s a slow and steady ride to achieving goals.

In The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting, Dan Doyle writes that one of the respondents to his “successful people survey” wrote:

“I knew I had the rest of my life to turn my disappointing sports career into success in new avenues to which I was better suited. After our losing season, we went out and led our lives, and our losing season inspired every one of us to strive for complete and successful lives.”

Sometimes what makes us insecure and vulnerable becomes the fuel we need to be overachievers. The antidote for a snakebite is made from the poison, and the thing that made you go backward is the same force that will push you forward.

 After a loss, your job is to help your athlete learn from it.

Let your child know that you empathize with their grief from a competitive loss, but that you will never be disappointed whenever they’ve put their best foot forward played honorably within the rules of the game.

Remind your player that:

  • Many successful adults had losing records as athletes!
  • Many successful former athletes have losing records as adults!

“Help your player learn not to become intoxicated by success or defeated by failure, and understand that the difference between victory and defeat is sometimes measured in inches, milliseconds, or just luck.” –The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting

When you make it clear as day that you value -your athlete’s participation, integrity, and effort–not the win/loss record or star status, they will more easily counterbalance wins and losses.