The Hidden Benefits of Losing


Dr. Natalie Flatt (nee McCabe), East Sandringham JFC Chief Mental Health Officer and Mum of  2 Zebbies

In the world of youth sports, winning is often seen as the ultimate goal. Coaches, parents, and players alike strive for victory, believing that success on the field is the key to building confidence and character. However, what if losing a game could actually be more beneficial for a child’s mental health than winning? 

Losing a game of football can teach children valuable lessons that they may not learn through winning alone. The big players here:

Resilience: Losing a game can be tough, but it can also teach children how to bounce back from disappointment. It helps them understand that failure is a natural part of life and that they can overcome setbacks with hard work and determination. Building resilience at a young age can help children manage those life challenges and setbacks we all experience. Talk openly about your own experiences with failure and how you bounced back from them. 

Sportsmanship: Losing gracefully is an important skill that children can learn through sports. It teaches them how to respect their opponents, accept defeat with grace, and congratulate the winning team. By learning to be a good sport, children develop empathy, humility, and respect for others. Encourage your child to reflect on what went wrong and what they can do differently next time. Help them set realistic goals and develop action plans to work toward improvement.

Emotional Intelligence: Losing can evoke a range of emotions, from disappointment and frustration to anger and sadness. Learning to help children identify and manage these emotions in a healthy way is an important aspect of emotional intelligence. Encourage open communication about feelings and provide strategies for managing emotions in a healthy way, such as deep breathing or taking a break to cool down.

Teamwork and Collaboration: Losing as a team can build a sense of unity and camaraderie among players. It can help children understand the importance of working together, supporting each other, and learning from their mistakes as a group. These skills are essential not only in sports but also in other areas of life, such as school, the workplace, and both personal and professional relationships. Emphasise the importance of supporting and encouraging each other, even in defeat.

Growth Mindset: Losing can shift children’s focus from outcome-based thinking to growth mindset. Instead of defining their worth by wins and losses, they can learn to see failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. This mindset can empower children to take risks, try new strategies, and continuously improve their skills.. Encourage children to reflect on what went wrong and what they can do differently next time. Help them set realistic goals and develop action plans to work toward improvement.

While winning may bring immediate satisfaction, losing can offer valuable lessons that contribute to children’s overall mental health and well-being. The next time your child loses a game, remember that it’s not just a defeat but a valuable opportunity for growth and learning.

Go Zebbies!!! 🦓