It’s Only a Game

me chicago1

…or is it?

While watching the NCAA tournament last evening, I was on a roller coaster of emotions along with the rest of the fans watching.

If you were not on that roller coaster, you either did not care about the results of the game or were not a fan of either team.

At the end, one team is elated with victory…

the other is crushed with defeat.

That is just the way it is. One team wins. One team loses. If there was no disappointment in defeat, then the victory would not be as sweet because it just really wouldn’t matter who won.

It is only a game, after all.

Or is it?

The outcome does matter a WHOLE LOT to the

  • team
  • coaches
  • parents
  • family members
  •  school
  • real fans
  • alumni

Watching the seniors on the losing team is heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but feel for the family members and loved ones who care about those young men. This was the NCAA tournament after all.

It is the big time – a once-in-a-life-time experience.

I remember being in Columbus, Ohio in 2002 for the final four of the NCAA Division III Women’s soccer tournament. Our daughter, Abigail was playing for Wheaton College and their team was facing Amherst College for the semi-final game. The score was tied at 1-1 when time ran out. After 2 scoreless over time periods, the game went to penalty kicks.

What an awful way to end a tournament game, a season, and for the seniors, their career!!

Wheaton lost in penalty kicks.

I have abhorred penalty kicks ever since!

The team was heartbroken. They had played an amazing season to get to that point – the final four – but that was no consolation at that moment.

Neither was the fact that it was only a game.

It was not brain surgery, no lives were lost, but it was NOT the outcome that the team had worked so hard for all season. Only time and distance would assuage their pain.

Do our children and grandchildren feel any less pain when they lose their hard-fought athletic contests?

As adults we realize there is a vast difference between a youth league tournament and the NCAA tournament. Yet to a child, their game is a big as it gets.

How can we help children keep their games in perspective and also help them handle the disappointment of defeat?

The following are some suggestions that I have gleaned from 35 years of watching children and now grandchildren participate in athletic events –

  • remember it is a game, it should be fun
  • do not try to relive your athletic past (or lack thereof ) through your child
  • encourage them with positive comments
  • cheer for their teammates as well as your child
  • when your child loses,  and it WILL happen, let them grieve appropriately
  • moderate tears are appropriate, wailing not so much

Try to avoid the following if at all possible –

  • yelling instructions to your child while a game is in progress (if they do hear you, what you yell may be different than the coach’s instructions)
  • yelling at the coach
  • yelling at your child’s team members
  • yelling at the officials
  • ok, avoid ALL yelling
  • criticizing the coach, especially in front of your child
  • demanding more playing time or a certain position for your child
  • make excuses or blame others for the lack of ability your child has

Children will take their cues from the adults in their lives, especially their parents, on how to respond in situations following a game. If we act with positive sportsmanship and grace following defeats or victories, our children will learn to do the same.

Colossians 3:23-25 E(ESV)

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Whatever our children are doing, whether it is helping at home, playing with siblings, playing with friends, learning at school, whatever they do,

if it is only playing a game,

we can help them understand that they honor and serve God by doing their best…

win or lose.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.