Two things upfront…
First, sorry — the below is pretty direct and brutal.
And two, I’m not actually sorry in the slightest. This is as ‘from the heart’ as I know how to be.
This is an open letter to the “loser kids.” I put that term in quotes because you’re not losers – even though that’s a title your parents have saddled you with. Let me back up a minute…
Our oldest kid plays in the same elementary school flag football league that you do. This season they’ve done okay – fourth (so far) among a field of twelve teams. But certainly not any kind of fearsome powerhouse. That’s why we were all stunned on Saturday when you didn’t show up for the game. Correction – two kids on your team who had been out of town and didn’t get the message did show up. And what was that message?
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?
It appears that your parents communicated amongst themselves and decided it wasn’t worth showing up for the game simply because, odds were, you wouldn’t win. And the two out-of-the-loop teammates who did show up made it clear they didn’t have a high estimation of their team’s talent, either. Wonder where they got that?
So what lessons were taught to you guys this past Saturday? At least three…
Your Losing Is Certain
‘As your parents, we are so certain you’re going to lose, it doesn’t even make sense to bring you to the field, let you try your hardest and, if it comes to it, lose with honor.’
Your Losing Is Inconvenient
‘We know you’re going to lose – why ruin a perfectly good Saturday? Let’s just stay home.’ In other words, don’t #BetOnYou.
Your Losing is Embarrassing
‘You’ve lost so many times, by so much, it’s not worth risking the humiliation again. In fact, we’re not even calling or emailing the league to give a courtesy heads up about this forfeit. We are in every conceivable way slinking out the back door.’
Kids, your parents let you down on this one, but I’m going to shoot you straight – losing does suck. It’s disheartening to give your best, just to see it all add up to ‘not enough.’ Sometimes you lose because you make mistakes, but sometimes you do everything right and, in the end, the other guy / gal / team is just plain better. That hurts deep.
I’ve learned all of this out on the grownup playing field of life.
But here are some other things I’ve learned…
- In losing, you learn where you need to improve.
- In losing, you learn what you’re truly made of.
- In losing, you learn there are worse things than losing.
Also, if you keep showing up and keep bringing your best, you might find you sometimes win.
You are not losers. You’re ten year-old kids who were robbed of the best thing youth sports has to offer: those sweaty, muddy, awkward glimpses into life lessons you’ll need and use again and again and again as an adult. Let’s face it, the wins feel great. They truly do. They also very rarely have anything of lasting value to teach us.
– Matthew Porter
Matthew Porter writes about decoding success, creative leadership, marketing, and productivity.
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