Let’s face it, tennis is a game of losing. When two people step onto a court to play a singles match, only one will win. In a tournament of any size, there is always only one person who will make it through the entire draw without losing a match. Many professional tennis careers are made by players who lose a match every week. A little bit of a bleak outlook on the sport, huh? It doesn’t have to be, though. Losing a tennis match is not particularly enjoyable, but we can learn a lot from it. Tennis can be a great sport even though we know that losing is a large part of it.
Losing and failures are a part of life, and we can make it the worse thing in the world and something to fear, or we can embrace it and use it to our advantage. Tennis can be a great way to learn how to cope with failure and how to learn from our past failures for future endeavors and successes. As a parent, perspective is important. As a part of life, failure is not something your child should be afraid of and definitely not be ashamed of.
Here are two things to consider when your child walks off the court after a loss, whether it be a tough one or a complete annihilation.
Nobody likes losing.
Your child already feels awful, probably devastated, about the result of the match. Don’t fuel the fire with your own anger and behavior.
Your child does not want to disappoint you.
Before you open your mouth, remember that your child never wants to look like a failure in your eyes. If they tanked the match deliberately, that is another case, but try not to criticize or exhibit anger just because the end result did not go your child’s way.
With these two things in mind, you will be able to help your child cope with and learn from the loss in a productive way. You can then:
Step into your child’s shoes and try to imagine the emotions that they are dealing with. Make your child know that their feelings are valid. A simple, “It must suck how you are feeling right now.” can actually go a long way.
Listen and engage with your child
Some kids will want to talk about the loss right after while others may want to register it themselves. In both cases though, your child needs to know that you are there for them, supporting them and loving them no matter what. Hug them and tell them, “I love you.”Make sure they know that their self worth is not tied with their tennis success, and that they are not alone at a time when they feel most vulnerable.
Help them move on
It is important to learn from losses, but it is also important for your child to know that life goes on. Letting go and moving on are necessary to coping in a healthy way. A question such as, “Where do you want to go eat?” is one great way to physically and mentally help your child move past the devastation of the loss.
A major thing to remember is that you are their parent, not their coach. If they exhibited behaviors that you do not approve of, you should address them, but tennis specific skills and strategy are not your domain.
In all of the emotional chaos after a tough loss, sometimes the best thing is to keep it simple:
“I am so sorry. It must suck how you feel right now.”
“I love you so much.”
“Where do you want to go eat?”