The last number of Saturdays have been painful around our household. My son is on a basketball team that has never won a game. They’ve lost every single game they’ve played. By a lot. The most points they’ve scored in a single game is 8. The other teams they play make it well into the 20’s and 30’s. From the first minute of the game, it’s obvious that our team is going to lose. And you know what? I’m glad.

Now, lest you think I’m a cruel parent who likes to see her child get soundly beaten, let me explain. My nine-year old is on a town basketball league that uses the draft system to assign players to teams. Yep. A draft. For nine-year olds. That’s a topic for another time. But regardless, that means the teams are rather lopsided. We’re the team of leftovers. The kids that haven’t played before and/or no one knows. So 66% of the kids on our team have never played competitive basketball before. To make things even more exciting, we started the season with seven kids on our team, and two quit. So our kids have to play every second of the game to meet the five-player requirement. They never get to sit on the bench. The other teams we play have at least three kids resting at any given time. Not our kids. We have kids who have never played basketball before, who are forced to play all four quarters, and who know before even setting foot on the court that they are guaranteed to lose. So what is there to be glad about? Simply this:

Losing builds character more than winning

Yes, the other teams are far more skilled than our kids. Yes, they’re better players and have a better command of the sport. But what pride is there in drubbing a team of kids who have never played before? What take-home lesson will those boys get? At the end of the day, can they really feel proud of their win? Our boys stuck the season out together as a team. Yeah, they knew they were bad, but they were a team, darn it, and they would play as one. They looked for opportunities to pass the ball to each other while opposing players were competing with one other to make flashy lay-ups. Our boys got discouraged, yes, but they still ran up and down that court with determination, knowing that quitting was not an option. And knowing they were going to lose took the pressure off them, too. They just went out there because they wanted to play, and if they scored a few points in the process, hey, all the better.

Losing is actually a learned skill, and a very difficult one to master. No one likes to lose. No one relishes failure. People don’t get up in the morning and wonder, “How can I fail today?” But there’s usually more to learn from mistakes and failures than from guaranteed success. Everyone will face failure at some point or another in life. And if my kids can learn from an early age how to deal with that, they’re learning a valuable life skill. Besides, failure does not define who you are as a person. My son knows that even though he’s on a losing team, that doesn’t mean he’s a loser himself. In fact, watching him lose this season has proven to me that he’s anything but a loser. I’m proud of him and his teammates for sticking out their season, and in my book, they’re a team of winners. Even if they did lose every game.

Photo is Basketball by Chilli Head