Dealing with loss in life can be a profoundly life-changing experience. Learning to deal with loss on a smaller scale before the big life-changing losses affect our lives is a way for us to learn some basic things about staying positive, turning negative experiences into positive ones, and more. In this post, I share some deeply personal experiences that have changed lives and how they relate to lessons we can help our kids learn on the youth sports field.
Learning About Loss in a Scale Model of Life
If you've been following this show for any length of time, you know that I consider youth sports to be a proxy for real life. Youth sports are a safe place to learn essential life skills. The lessons learned in this environment are lessons that really matter when life serves us much harder losses later.
This past week, my 17-year-old daughter and her friends lost someone dear to them. A friend to some. A boyfriend to one. A mirror of their own mortality for all of them. In this sad real-life situations, lessons learned earlier in teamwork, friendship, coming together to overcome challenges came into focus. When kids learn how to deal with life's hardships early, they are much better equipped to deal with them when they inevitably arrive.
A Personal Story Dealing with Loss
I fell in love with a young woman when I was in college. It was a comfortable relationship. We both found comfort at the end of the day in one another's company. We shared pizza, hours of overnight conversation, and a bond that I believed deep down would lead to marriage at some point way down the road. Everything felt right with her. She and I would always be close. She was killed in a car accident on the side of Dannemora mountain in New York.
Her death had a profound effect on the rest of my life. I was fortunate enough to find love again, but the journey I set out on soon after she died lasted for a very long time. I became a volunteer fire fighter, an EMT, a Navy Corpsman, and set out to put myself as close to death as I could get - to save as many lives as I could, and at some level, come closer to being there for the woman I wasn't able to be there for on that cold day in November.
Making Lemonade out of Lemons
The rest of my life was created through a series of decisions. A lot of good came from this loss because I chose for good to come of it. I suppose I could have easily gone the other way and never realized the joy my family brings me or the good things I've done for others.
Learning Starts Young
There is a big difference between losing a loved one and losing a youth sports game, but many of the fundamentals are there:
- How do we react and process loss?
- How do we lean on others (or not) when we face difficult times?
- How do we empathize with others (or not) when they are down or need our help?
We teach our kids how to deal with life in layers. With each new level of complexity, our kids learn to process wins, losses, good times and bad. They learn about the essential ingredients that go into making good citizen adults. They watch other adults for signs of volunteerism and community focus, for how they treat other adults, and how they should react to life themselves when they are older.
Youth Sports Provides the Perfect Training Field
If you cold create a safe space where kids can be exposed to the range of emotions and situations they will be exposed to later in life, and you made it a fun and healthy place to hang out, you'd have the youth sports environment. Careful planning and management of the youth sports space gives us a unique and powerful way to teach life lessons - including dealing with loss.
The habits we learn as kids on the field are the same habits we apply to larger situations later in life. If resilience, a positive attitude, and teamwork are working for you as a kid, chances are pretty good, you'll turn to those same things later in life when adult problems come knocking.
- Look at more images from the making of this film "Images and Words, the Other Side of DUI" and read more about the story here.