One year, my 16-year-old daughter returned from a summer missions trip with a broken toe just as varsity volleyball began at her school. She started the season late and had barely practiced for a week when she tweaked her ankle and suffered another setback. It was that year in which we learned that not all seasons end on a high note. In that season, we learned just how important it is to celebrate the small victories.
Two weeks after the ankle injury, when she was cleared to play by the doctor, she enthusiastically jumped back in expecting to pick up right where she left off. Her progress, unfortunately, was slower than expected and her frustration became evident. We began to seek even the smallest evidence of progress, acknowledging and rejoicing in each small victory. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had much to celebrate at all.
Sometimes we overlook small victories as parents because we are too busy looking for the big stuff—touchdown passes, winning goals, home runs, and new personal records. Of course we should rejoice in our kid’s greatest successes, but it is far more often that we need to celebrate small victories. They are the stuff that everyday sports—and life—are made of. Small victories come in many shapes and sizes, and are unique to each athlete.
Small victories are subtle. They don’t always jump out at you.
Parents and athletes let them pass by without acknowledgment all the time. We all get caught up in the failures and struggles that come along in-between the big victories. How often have you been obsessed with the minutes your child is not playing, the baskets they missed, the volleyball digs they shanked, or the passes they’ve dropped? Rather than stressing about our athlete’s missed opportunities or underwhelming statistics, focus on your child’s character. Coach keeping them in the game for a key moment, and your athlete’s courage to try again are small victories worth celebrating.
It’s a small victory that your child took some good shots. They are learning to take risks. It’s a small victory that they dove for that ball. They are learning to fight.
It’s a small victory that your child encourages their teammates on the court, and it’s a small victory that your child gave their best effort. At every game and practice, help your child focus on finding at least one small victory. It will instill a positive outlook that will pave the way for them to find bigger victories as well.