The Kids Coach: It’s the taking part that counts

Everyone loves to win, but our kids can develop just as much by learning how to react in the right way when they lose. Kids Coach Naomi Richards investigates the issue.

We tend to use the phrase “it’s the taking part that counts” but do we really mean it when we say this to our children when they are competing in a sport?

Winning feels great doesn’t it? Especially after 90 minutes on the football field – focusing on the game, defending, attacking, setting up goals or sticking them in the back of the net.

Winning empowers children to feel great about themselves and gives them that confirmation that they have worked well as a team. It lifts their confidence and their self-esteem.

But what about when your child loses the game? How do they feel then? Possibly disappointed, angry at themselves that they did not play as well as they could have, or regretful that they missed opportunities.

Your child may even blame themselves or others in their team for not winning.

So if it is the taking part that counts how do we teach our children how to deal with losing?

Well, prior to a game we can talk to our children about what it would mean if they lost. What would they think about themselves if they did? What would it mean for their team?

Get them to focus on their performance and doing the best that they can. Challenge any negative thoughts that they have and change their mindset into a positive one: “I will do the best I can and if we lose as a team it could be due to many reasons”. Help them to list the reasons.

Post-game we can talk to them about what they did well and ask them do they think they did the best they could within their control. Get them to be realistic and even write down what they did well.

Make your child see that they did not personally lose and that in every game that they play there has to be a winner and a loser and that there are lessons to be learn when their team loses.

What do they think they could learn about themselves and the way they played in their most recent game? How would they do things differently?

The way our children handle losing can be down to the way we respond to it, as children often mirror our actions. We can show them how we accept defeat and disappointment by talking about it when it happens to us.

Share the times when you have lost at something and talk about how you dealt with the feelings and thoughts that you had. Children like to know it does not just happen to them.

You can also help any time you are playing a game with them. When you lose, exhibit good sportsmanship by congratulating them – perhaps shaking their hand and, at the same time, saying something encouraging about the way that they played.

This will teach them that, when the other team has won the game, they need to swallow their pride and show good spirit to the winners.

Naomi Richards is The Kids Coach – a life coach for children. Her first book, The Parent’s Toolkit, shares key life tools for you to help your children successfully navigate their own childhood problems and grow up into happy, confident and resilient young adults.

The Parent’s Toolkit was described by The Sun as “clear and to the point… a must-read for parents”. It is published by Vermillion and is available to buy on

Put your questions to The Kids Coach

If you’ve got a question for Naomi or would like to hear advice on a particular topic relating to young footballers, please leave a comment below, email us at [email protected] or tweet Naomi at @thekidscoach.

Whether it’s about how we can take pressure off kids after a game, teaching them acceptance and tolerance of other members of the team or something completely different, tell us what you’d like to read about in Naomi’s next column.

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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