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Character Over Wins: Kids Have to Learn How to Lose

“I want to try it again.”

Never did I think I would hear those words come out of my son’s mouth about wrestling.

He gave wrestling a shot about 3 years ago and although he never gave up, he loathed every single minute of it. It was a difficult season (wrestling and life) for our family because my husband worked every Saturday, leaving me to take the kids to all sporting events.

The wrestling match that sticks out in my mind is him screaming and crying, “Mommy, please come help me…please! I need you.”

Do you know how heartbreaking it is to have your child cry out to you, make eye contact with you, and you do nothing? Every ounce of me wanted to run out on that mat and rescue him. (No, he wasn’t being hurt; he just hated wrestling.) I made eye contact with the coaches a few times and they gave me the, “Please don’t be that mom” look.

So, when he said he wanted to give it another shot, I was the one who was a little hesitant about his decision, but I also know that a big deciding factor was that his Dad would be helping coach the team. It was also an opportunity for him to build character and practice good sportsmanship—win or lose.

win Kids Have to Learn How to Lose: Building Character Over Winning

I love watching wrestling—always have.

Maybe it’s because I was a cheerleader and know a few “pin his shoulder to the mat” cheers, but I truly believe that wrestling (and any sport) can teach a young child a lot about themselves.

But, it’s also up to us, as parents, to reinforce the positive behavior and good sportsmanship values that they will learn along the way.

I have watched young men throw off their headgear, whine about losing, refuse to shake the other coach’s hand, cuss, and stomp off the mat while complaining that the ref isn’t fair.

Maybe it’s the Everyone Gets A Participation Award society that we live in, but some of these kids seem to feel so entitled to win…when they have clearly lost. I’m not sure what is worse: when these kids act like this, or when their parents and coaches sit back and allow it to happen.

When I see this, I have always used the opportunity to speak with Elijah. Yes, them getting upset shows that they care about the sport, which is important, but winning isn’t everything.

You have to learn how lose before you can be a winner.

character win Kids Have to Learn How to Lose: Building Character Over Winning

Elijah could never win another match in his life and it wouldn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the type of character that is being developed in my boy’s heart and mind. Yes, he gets upset and cries. But, he walks over to the other coach and respectfully shakes their hand every time. He doesn’t complain or cuss or have a tantrum.

He takes the loss, which makes those wins that much more special.

We tell him we are proud of him every time he steps off that mat: win or lose. If he tried his best, that is all that matters.

As parents, it’s important for us to remember that it’s not all about the perfect record (which don’t get me wrong, that is cool too).

When the season is over, they may have a trophy or a medal that they get to display in their room but the varnish will eventually fade.

What is important is the character that will shine brighter and brighter throughout their life if we just allow it to.

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