NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.
By Chris Golic, NFL Evolution columnist
Nobody likes to lose. Let's face it -- we all know losing stinks, and if you play sports for any length of time, you experience it firsthand. We all see the gamut of responses that losing can provoke, from throwing helmets to sitting and crying on the bench.
So what's an acceptable response to losing, and how do we teach our kids to deal with the disappointment?
First, let me say that, for me, watching my child deal with a loss is far harder than experiencing it firsthand. My maternal instinct always kicks in, and I want to find a way to somehow make it all better.
My second son, Jake, just finished his sixth year of college playing for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Their final game of the season and his college career was at the Military Bowl in Annapolis. They lost to Virginia Tech. Needless to say, that was not how any of us envisioned his college career ending.
Two years ago, both my sons were on the Notre Dame team that was beaten soundly by Alabama in the BCS National Championship. Our family has a long history with Notre Dame football and, leading up to that game, nobody was more excited about the possibility of our boys being a part of a Notre Dame national championship team.
For us, that is the stuff dreams are made of, and the disappointment of that loss hangs with our family to this day. We have had our fair share of losses, and the hurt of losing is real no matter your age. The older children get, the bigger the stakes and the investment into the journey become for them and for you as their No.1 fan.
I believe as a parent the lesson starts when kids are young and it's something that is repeatedly reinforced as they grow. Some people like to excuse "bad" losing behavior as a simple matter of that player being more intense or wanting it more than their teammates. I have never bought into that line of thinking. It's important for children to learn that it's ok to be disappointed or upset, but that there are acceptable and unacceptable responses to how they express what they are feeling.
Children need help in keeping a loss in perspective. Teaching them that while it may hurt today, tomorrow the sun will in fact come up and life will go on. Learning this early on is a tool that will help children throughout their lives. Wins and losses are something you carry with you, but proper perspective is key.
As young people develop, there is no bigger influence on them than their parents. After wins and losses they watch you, they hear what you say to them and others, and they pick up on how you are feeling and ultimately will learn by your cues.
A few weeks back, we were sitting at Paul Brown stadium watching Jake and the Bearcats play. There was a man a few rows behind us who came to the game and brought his children with him. At first glance, you would think "How great. This guy is spending a nice Saturday night with his kids."
Not so fast! This guy spent the entire time yelling and screaming at the refs and the players. Guess what his kids were doing? Yup, the same exact thing. Through his actions, he taught them that this is how they should behave.
Another influence on young players are the actions of the older players they look up to. Just a few days ago, Florida State lost to Oregon in the college football playoffs. There was controversy after the game because many FSU players left the field without shaking hands with the winning team.
There have been conflicting reports about the losing players being asked to leave the field. Instead of whisking those players away, everyone who was involved with this game should have ensured that the handshakes between teams happened.
On college football's biggest stage, those small moments are needed now more than ever. The powers that be should make sure gestures of sportsmanship like this occur. Sadly, the players from FSU should have wanted to do it without someone guiding them. They too could have been part of teachable moment.
Seeing older players do these sorts of things are impactful and necessary.
Children need to learn that it's ok to hurt after a loss, but they also need to learn that losing is a part of life not only in sports.
Life itself brings all of us loss in one form or another. Teaching kids the ability to overcome and let go is an invaluable tool. We can give them these tools as parents, and sports are a wonderful vehicle to use for teaching. Learning to lose and the ability to do it with class, while not a pleasant experience, is something kids can carry with them long after their playing days are done.
Christine Golic is the NFL's Consultant on Youth Football and a member of the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee. Golic is the wife of Mike Golic, a nine year NFL veteran and co-host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," and mother of two sons who played college football at Notre Dame and a daughter who is a swimmer at Notre Dame.