As thrilling as it is when your kid's team wins an exciting game on a buzzer-beating basket, a sudden death overtime goal or a walk-off hit, it's just as heartbreaking when they're on the losing end of those kind of games. Kids can teach parents and coaches a lot about how to get over a heartbreaking loss.
I was recently reminded of how to get over a tough loss by one of my son's teammates. It was the championship game of a hockey tournament. Brayden's (my son's) 8 and Under team was playing against the team that handed them their only loss of the tournament. The game didn't start out well. Brayden's team was down 4-0 in the blink of an eye. But the boys didn't quit. They kept battling. Eventually they were able to chip away to make the score 4-3. With only a couple minutes left, they scored to tie the game and force a 10-minute sudden death overtime. Let me tell you, this overtime was as exciting as it gets, regardless of how young the kids were. The action was end-to-end. Both teams clanked two shots off goal posts. The rink was rockin'. It was awesome. With our kids coming all the way back to score four unanswered goals, you could feel the momentum rolling in our favor.
I just knew the boys were going to win the game in a thrilling fashion that they would never forget. This was going to be a game story they told for decades. Before I knew it, I looked up at the score clock and there was less than one minute left. The previous nine minutes of excitement flew by faster than the kids skating after a loose puck. Once the time got down to the final 30 seconds, the opposing team was sustaining the pressure in our end. I found myself looking back up at the clock every five seconds. That same clock that seemingly zoomed through the previous 9 minutes and 30 seconds had turned to a slow and agonizing crawl. The momentum that was supposed to be propelling my son's team to a certain victory was now rolling in the opposite direction. The opposing team kept firing shot after shot at our goaltender. Every rebound went right to their sticks. I looked up at the clock. :08 seconds left. "C'mon. Hold 'em boys." I said under my breath.
The other team reversed the play, passing the puck from the right side to the left. Their left winger received the puck. From about 15-20 feet out, he let go a high wrist shot. One of our best players raised his stick and attempted to knock down the shot. The puck deflected off his stick, changed trajectory slightly and went right over our goalie's shoulder. Immediately, I looked back at the clock. Three seconds. The boys just had to keep the puck out of the net for three more measly seconds. Players from the other team piled on top of the kid who scored the game winner. The kids on their bench rushed the ice and joined the celebration.
It was a heartbreaking loss, for sure. Our boys looked stunned. They couldn't believe it. I guess they felt that momentum I was talking about, too. As I made my way down to the locker rooms, all I could think about was Brayden's teammate who deflected that final shot. He also happens to be Brayden's best friend and our neighbor. Would he be really upset? I wondered. Would this have a lasting effect on his feelings for hockey? The kids filed into the locker room, sweaty and spent. I gave Brayden the traditional post game pat on the helmet and told him that I was proud of him. I gave Bray's buddy a pat on the helmet too, hoping to cheer him up. He didn't say anything. "Oh man." I thought. "Is he still processing what happened out there? Poor kiddo." The boys started to take off their gear.
Out of nowhere, Brayden's friend looked at Brayden and said, in a cheerful and hopeful voice, "I hope it's not raining anymore so that we can play outside when we get home!" I just stood there and smiled. His mind was already off the game and onto the next fun thing he could do that day. What a great way to live life! Don't get caught up and dwell on the negativity of a loss. Instead, look forward to the next fun thing and potential victory that lies ahead.
How do you get over tough losses in your life? Thanks for reading, -Kevin Kevin Duy is a Sports Dad of three boys and writes about sports parenting.