My heart was racing. My eyes were wide. The crowd around me was blurred. I could hear the shuffling and the chatter, but I was laser focused.
Our eighth grader and our sixth grader were ready to play in their first tennis match of the season. This was our sixth grader’s first match ever. I can’t think of much I enjoy more than watching my kids engage in activities they’re passionate about.
Watching them gets me into a flow. I don’t think it’s about vicarious living. I’m just so proud of them. No matter the outcome of any activity or event, I’m so proud.
We have four. In this moment they’re thirteen, eleven, ten and eight years-old. I’m forty nine years-old, and while I still have goals, a wonderful career and an active personal, professional, spiritual, social and intellectual life, most of what I do is set on a foundation of my kids’ joy and well-being.
I want them to be happy. I want them to achieve. I want them to know they’re loved. I want them to have courage, give themselves grace, learn how to balance their lives, feel calm, and find meaningful pathways through the triumphs and the challenges they have and will undoubtedly continue to face.
The first set was underway. Our eight grader and his doubles partner were hitting every shot. Serves were on point, feet were shifting and shuffling, the ball was an obscured yellow blob rocketing back and forth with purpose.
They stretched and they leapt. They pulled each other along with fist pumps and racket taps. They were steady, calm and patient, and they made quick work of it, excusing their opponents after a 6 – 2 win.
It was as if I blacked out while they played then came to after the set. I was standing next to the mom of my kid’s partner. We exchanged smiles. A great result. After taping rackets and thanking his opponents, our kid looked up to where he knew we were watching with a wide grin and a thumbs up. I returned the gesture. One down and one to go.
Our sixth grader, in his first match ever, was playing with an eight grade partner in a points match. It was a big deal and he was thrilled.
That week we talked a lot about playing one point at a time. No matter the score, every point is a new point. Before long he and his partner found themselves down 4 – 1 in the set. I’ve seen many middle school tennis matches. This is typically where the opposing team wins two more games and runs away with it. Not here. Not this time.
The kids were hitting shots and moving fluidly around the court. They were simply off by a flick of the wrist here and a stretch of the arm there. As they crossed the court to switch sides at 4 – 1 our sixth grader flashed me the same kind of genuine and enthusiastic grin I got from our eight grader after his win. I knew in that moment he was nowhere near done, and that he was holding a winning attitude. I knew that no matter the outcome, this was a great experience for him.
The guys won three more games, going down to their opponent 6 – 4. It was a great set! When he came off the courts he told me he felt shaken at 4 – 1 and realized that some deep breathing and mindfulness would help him get back in it. Even thought they didn’t take the set this time, he was beaming with pride at having won three more games after that trying moment. I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome! Sometimes loss learning is just as good as winning.
Coach tells the boys they either win or they learn. There is no losing on this team. Our kids take it to heart and live that paradigm as a young athletes. It’s wonderful to watch.
After the match, coached asked if anyone had anything to say. Our sixth grader was the only one to speak up. He said, “I just want to say, whether you won or learned today, I think everyone did a really good job!”
That moment will stick with me forever. So important to remember. Wining is great. Learning is great. With a growth mindset and a positive attitude it’s all great!
When we listen to our kids, let them guide, celebrate their efforts and support them in processing the unique paths they tread, we help them build resilience.
Loss learning can be powerful and positive when we make it so!
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.