Youth Sports are not supposed to be about wins and losses. They are supposed to be about having fun, staying healthy, learning skills and teamwork, that sort of good stuff. But sports are competitions. There are points and runs and goals. There are times and places and scores. There are winners and losers.
There are many ways to lose. There are the tough losses, the unlucky bounces, and the last second let downs. Then there are the blow-outs, the annihilations and the ‘where can I hide for the next thousand years’ sort of efforts.
Some of these losses we can shrug off with a smile. Some make us weep. Some make us question if there will ever again be hope or light in the universe.
I am, at the present moment, emotionally invested in five teams (four hockey, one football). They are, in order, the Maine Junior Black Bears Blue Squirts, the UMaine women’s and men’s hockey teams, the Boston Bruins and the New England Patriots. It’s been a rough week.
The Bruins went 1-3 on their western road trip. The lady Black Bears lost 8-1 to BU. The men went down 3-2 in OT to UMass-Lowell and the MJBB Blues lost 6-3 and then 11-1 on a double-header day. At least there’s the Patriots who wait until the AFC Championship or the Superbowl to blow it.
It’s rough about the Bruins and I feel bad for the UMaine players, many of whom I’ve known as students. The ladies are having a pretty good year though and lost to the #1 team in the country featuring a couple Olympians. The men are having a leaner time of it but still, if you’re a Division I hockey player at Maine, life ain’t all bad.
The team I feel for the most is my team, my son and his friends.
It is a hard, hard thing to do to send your child back out for a third period down by eight when all they want to do is crawl into a corner and all you want to do is give them a hug (while simultaneously kicking a trash-can across the rink).
But you do and they get through it and an hour or two later the kid is laughing at his brother for having a carrot up his nose and a kitten hanging off his shoulder. And maybe a day or two later I can laugh again.
But that’s the thing. We make it through. Losing doesn’t make us or our kids losers. Just being here, alive, able to see our kids playing in a game means we’ve won against odds so astronomical they make the Mega-ball Jackpot look like easy pickings. Way on back in the womb we beat out a million other versions of ourselves to become a person who owes a bank a bunch of money to live in a house. Our ancestors conquered lands and named countries! We beat out lions and tigers and bears (Oh, my!) and frogs and bees and dolphins and gorillas and wombats and sloths to become the dominant species on this planet! Heck, just having a planet far enough away from the sun not to freeze and close enough to enjoy a cold one on is a win in my book!
That’s great and all but when your kids have just gotten pummeled again and you’re worried they might just wander off to the tablet version of the game you love the probability of life in the universe seems far, far away and no amount of yelling, ranting, or crying will change the outcome. Remember, you can lose a game, just don’t lose your kid. Hold them, help them, take it like an adult.
Because if there’s one thing adults know it’s that if there’s one thing humans are good at it’s losing. As a writer I get rejected more often than Jose Conseco at a hand modeling audition. J.K. Rowling got turned down by 27 publishers before someone figured that Harry Potter kid was worth a shot. Businesses send out thousands of flyers and emails and promos just to get one customer. One thing about us people, we can take a hit. When other critters go under because of a little flux in the temp, we fire up the propane and roast us some chestnuts…I’m back to that argument again…dang it.
Here’s the thing about losing…all of the big organizations (Little League, USA Hockey, USA Soccer, USTA, etc.) will tell you that it’s not about the games, that it’s about individual skill development but at some point it is about the game. They hold a World Series for twelve-year olds and ESPN broadcasts every smile and tear. They spend millions of dollars on Junior-World Championships and Olympic gold. If winning doesn’t matter we’d do away with all that. Every youth sport completion would be like my Monday night game or Who’s Line is it Anyway where everyone’s a winner and the points don’t count. Maybe we should do that? No scores, no points, nobody gets a trophy just go out and play because it’s fun!
But here’s the thing…the kids know the score. Even when they stop putting them up because one team is so far ahead, they know. They know it sucks to lose.
They also know a brother with a carrot in his nose and a kitten on his shoulder is darn funny and the one should never ruin the other.