As kids grow and gain more experience in life, they encounter disappointment more often. Most often because they did not meet the expectations they had for themselves or those who care about them.
If handled correctly, disappointment can help youth grow and learn. Helping your child with this discontent in school and in sports can give them vital tools for later on in life.
• When a student-athlete becomes disappointed at a loss of a game or does not get a starting position, let them feel down. Acknowledge the feeling. Statements like, "I can see that you are disappointed" or "Tell me what disappoints you about that” will allow your child to know it's OK to feel displeasure when they do not meet a goal. Remind them it's OK to having a feeling, but it is what they do when they have that feeling that is important. Modeling this behavior will better assist your athlete in being able to stay calm when things don't go their way.
• Teaching calming methods or taking time out will also help deal with disappointment.
• Praise may refocus the athlete. Help your child look for the positive in the experience. Maybe they did not make the team or the play of the year, but they gave a great effort and dedicated themselves to the tryout or the season.
• Assist in refocusing your child’s goals and learning from the experience. When aiding in refocusing goals, ensure they are realistic. Talk about how the new goals can be met.
Focusing on the process and not the product throughout the season will help limit disappointment. Learning and growing as an athlete and a person takes place when we are giving our best effort, dedicating ourselves, taking appropriate risks and working with others. Giving positive feedback for an athlete's effort and participation at practices, and commenting on how your child is growing in their sport, will help with dealing with disappointments caused by loss of games and tournaments.
Handling disappointment is not only useful on the field and in the classroom either. Teaching your child how to react when things don't go their way will give them a life skill that is necessary as they grow into a successful adult.
Angee (Henry) Nott is a former University of Nebraska track athlete who was a three-time Big 12 champion and a 10-time All-American. She was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. She has coached track and cross country at Boys Town High School since 2004, where she is also an English teacher. She continues to empower her students to reach their potential on the track and in the classroom.