Super Bowl 47: A Big Game for Many...A Test of Character for the Harbaugh Family

Super Bowl 47 will not only be remembered as Ray Lewis' last dance, the Ravens defeating the 49ers, or the power outage, it will also be known as the Harbaugh Bowl, and big brother John's triumph of little brother Jim.  It was one of the headline stories leading up the game, and rightfully so.

Sibling support trumps sibling rivalry

I played many games against my older brother while growing up, and losing to him was tough.  As we got older and began competing against others in high school and college, it was so much better because I could celebrate every victory, and every success he had.  When he lost, it hurt, and it hurt bad.  I'm sure he felt the same way.

His greatest victory was my greatest victory.  When I won the state championship in basketball he was right there celebrating like it was he won.  In fact our entire family celebrated together.  It was natural, it was easy.  But how would we have handled it, how would our family have handled it, if one of our greatest victories happened to come at the cost of the other's greatest defeat?  That is exactly what the Harbaugh family had to do.

Sports are more than wins and losses

We have heard winning and losing is a part of sports.  Herm Edwards, thanks to ESPN, and now YouTube, made famous the quote, "you play to win the game!"  Yes, that is a big part of sports, but for those of us who coach kids, or who have kids playing sports know there is more to it.

Most of us will never have a child make it to play professional sports, or even coach professionally.  So, if winning and losing is what sports are about, then when a kid's career is over what value is left?  Lessons like what the Harbaugh's went through are what it is about.  Life lessons that do not play favorites.  Challenges that can make you or break you.

Life after the win...or loss

John Harbaugh was asked about greeting his brother, Jim, at midfield after the game, and he responded by saying it was one of the hardest things he'd ever done.  Yes, he was happy, yes he just reached the pinnacle of success in his profession, and yes, his brother was there with him while it happened.  The phrase, "bitter sweet", doesn't quite say enough.

My guess is there was or will be a Harbaugh family celebration after everything has settled down.  Both brothers and their families may be present.  I am not sure what will be said, or done, during that celebration.  Thinking of this led me to ponder this question:  Have I prepared my kids to handle life's biggest wins and losses?  Here are four things to help us all prepare our kids.

Four Teaching Points To Prepare Your Kids for Life's Biggest Wins and Losses

  1. Relationships always come first...even in sports.  Whether Jim or John won, I was certain their would be no break-up of their relationship.  From what I've read about their dad, Jack, and their family and the evidence of their careers, Coach Jack had prepared them for both the good and bad of sports.  When I played, and got beat I just tried harder.  Although I took losing to my brother hard, I learned so much and was able to better compete against others.
  2. Winning or losing is important, but how you handle winning or losing is more important.  Had Jim ended up in a near altercation like what happened when he and the Detroit Lions coach had some issues after a game, I'm sure this post would be different.  However, Jim gracefully took the loss, even if he didn't agree with certain calls made by the officials which may have hurt his chances of winning.  Don't get too high when you win and don't get too low when you lose, and always show respect to your opponent.
  3. Appreciate the journey.  Both Harbaugh brothers overcame adversity, and had an incredible run.  That game does not diminish the experiences, the growth, and everything they'd accomplished up to the Super Bowl.  We should encourage our kids to appreciate each step along their sports and life journeys.  I remember my championship game, but some of the things that happen prior to that stick with me more.
  4. Realize how good you have it.  When the Harbaugh brothers were kids, their dad would say to them, "who's got it better than us?" John and Jim would answer, "Nobody!"  Now maybe there are some people who had it better than they did, or better than us and our kids.  But what Jack instilled in them was having a positive outlook on their situation, no matter what.  When you look at your experiences as good, then you will find good in them.  Jim lost the Super Bowl, but who can say the person they had backyard games with was the person they competed against for one of sports' biggest championships, "nobody!"
Question:  What ways have you helped prepare your kids to handle life's biggest wins and losses?  Please share in the comment section below.

Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.  is a sports parent of three, and writes on youth sports. He has played sports for over 30 years, including the collegiate level, and coached youth sports for the past eight years.  

photo credit: paulmgardner via photopin cc

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