Sam Weinman is the digital editor at Golf Digest and has been a sports journalist for 20 years. His new book Win at Losing, which was inspired by his kids, shows the benefits of losing and what we can learn from it.
What prompted you to write "Win At Losing?" I’ve been a sports journalist for 20 years. For starters I've always been intrigued by losing, and losers, and the losing locker room. I feel like these are the more interesting stories so I’ve always had a deeper apprication for them. But it was more my boys, being a dad and raising two kids who are pretty active in sports and seeing their ability to deal with losing and their inability to see an upside to losing. So I thought it would be an interesting topic and an interesting life lesson for them and everyone else as well.
What do we win from losing? Losing is great feedback. When you lose at a certain endeavor, you are learning something about where you need improvement. Losing exposes weakness and things you can be improving upon. So if it’s sport and you lose, you are ultimately given an indication at what you need to work on. The second thing is character. Losing is an inevitable part of life and the more we navigate that dynamic the better we get at it and the better we’re equipped to handle losing in whatever realm. Losing is a great character-building moment in that you are given the opportunity to experience something difficult and emerge from it and that is ultimately a really great growth opportunity.
What should parents do after their child experiences defeat? I would start by telling your child everyone loses and encourage them not to despair when you go through these moments because it may not be right away but there will be something good to come out of that loss and something positive to take from it. If you can get your kid to wrap their brain around that and know good can come from losing, then they’re less afraid of trying new things because they will be less afraid of failing. The undesirable outcome can yield something positive.
Anything parents shouldn’t do? The first thing is to not put your kid in a position where they are shielded from failure. There is a point when winning and losing is just part of the deal of growing up and I would be very leery of trying to protect your kid from that. Ultimately you are depriving them the opportunity to experience it and learn from it. The second thing is when your kids are upset after a loss, even if it seems trivial to you, don’t belittle how they are feeling. Try to meet them where they are and recognize that while it may seem insignificant to you, it’s a big deal to them and you should validate their feelings.
Do you suggest letting kids win at a young age? Or should parents play fair from the beginning? At a very young age you are dealing with emotion versus reason so my feeling is when you’re engaging in an activity with your kid you shouldn’t be rewarding winning or losing as much as rewarding trying something different. Try to focus on the process of playing the game or having fun and that’s true even as they get older, that yes you don’t want to shelter your kids from failure, but you can still define success a lot of different ways. It can be trying something new or sticking to a process or plan, or when they understand the rules. There’s value in commending that.
Build Self Confidence Through Sports
Get Exciting Area Events in Your Inbox