The sports world and real life alike are littered with stories of people who’ve risen above failure to find something greater. But quite often, they never reach those heights without losing first. One example is the 1982-83 Edmonton Oilers, an exceptionally good hockey team. They scored 424 goals that season (the most ever to that point) and finished third in the league. The Oilers coasted their way through the playoffs, losing only one game on the way to Stanley Cup Finals. That spring, Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers were set to win their first championship, but things didn’t work out that way. They were swept in four games by the New York Islanders.
The story doesn’t end there. The Oilers would win five times over the next seven years, cementing themselves as an NHL dynasty. Players on that team would tell you that losing was a great teacher. What they learned from failure set the stage for their future success, which is something we need to teach our kids. Here are 4 important lessons our sons can learn from losing.
1. We learn from failure how to win.
Oilers legends like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier spoke of that 1983 loss as the key to their future success. They remember walking past the Islanders’ dressing room expecting to see celebratory antics but instead saw the champions sitting with ice packs on sore bodies. Gretzky spoke of the need to take it to “another level” to be a champion. This is exactly what his team did. The experience of losing offers a boy a measuring stick between where he is and where he wants to be. From there, our sons can make progress toward their goals.
2. There’s always another hand, another game, another season.While we all have to live with loss, loss shouldn’t deny us the chance to start anew tomorrow.
My son gets upset when he loses. It doesn’t matter if it’s cards, a race, or watching a team he loves fall short. I don’t like to lose either. In my son’s case, losing makes him want to quit. But bringing him back to the scene of his loss to play again reminds him that there’s always another hand, another game, and another season. One of the key lessons our sons can learn from failure or loss is that it doesn’t define who we are or who we will become. While we all have to live with loss, loss shouldn’t deny us the chance to start anew tomorrow.
3. We learn empathy.
When professional athletes win a particularly intense game, we see them celebrate with a bat flip, a goal celebration, or a touchdown dance. Our kids can be tempted to imitate them after a score or victory of their own. But an 8-year-old soccer player lacks the resiliency professional athletes have built up and can take this sort of celebration personally. Over-the-top celebrations can be poor sportsmanship. Losing teaches our sons to be mindful of this when they celebrate, because they wouldn’t want a loss rubbed in their faces if roles were reversed.
4. Games are not just about winning.
When I was 24, I signed up for a men’s league hockey. I played on a terrible team but loved every minute of it. It was a pleasure to be with the guys, playing a game I love. The truth is that playing sports and games goes hand in hand with losing. Our sons are going to play games that they lose. We need to teach them that winning isn’t the best part or even the greatest goal. The greatest goal is the love of the game or of the people we get to share it with.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Failure.
Sound off: What have you learned from loss or failure?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things we can learn through failure?”