Football came home

2018 will be the 18th year since my dear Dad died. One of the things that came to mind in the wake of last night’s England defeat was his infamous saying ‘you can’t have joy without sorrow.’  This pearl of wisdom was said to me many times during my childhood; a defeat on school sports day, not getting the part I wanted in the school play – there was a growing realisation that unlike in bedtime fairy tales, life doesn’t always end with ‘happy ever after.’ In fact there are many thorns that scratch, cut and make you bleed amongst the beautiful roses.

This is a hard lesson to learn as a child and as parents we are desperate to protect our young and keep them safe from harm, avoiding disappointments.  I’ve read countless times on facebook over the last few weeks about the gloom of a pending sports day.  I’ve experienced this with my own children who didn’t excel at running and as a young person’s counsellor. I’ve sat with kids who would rather fain illness than have to participate. The fear of failure is rife.  How do we as adults bridge the gap between allowing our children the experience of losing and being gallant in defeat without it damaging their precious self-esteem?  There is an argument to suggest that never allowing your child the opportunity to fail is equally damaging to their sense of self.  Children need to experience both sides of the coin – winning and losing in equal measures.

So is losing such a bad thing? Not if there is value in it. I remind my young clients that there is learning to be had in defeat if we look hard enough for it.  Anyone who has ever been successful is only successfully because they have failed a bunch of times first.  The real value is in the learning.  Mock exams exist to show students what they need to do to improve, failing to get a job requires you to reflect on what you need to do to improve your interview technique. We also overlook what we have achieved on the path to success.  Last week I reminded a group of nervous girls who were attempting to water ski for the first time that ‘wiping out’ is all part of the process (and where the most fun is at!)  Berating themselves for not being able to stand up they were missing the point, they had in fact already succeeded just by getting in the boat. Small steps lead to giant strides - the process is often much more important, more valuable and more life changing than the final accomplishment.

So as we prepare to welcome our England team home next week let’s encourage our youngsters to celebrate what is rather than what could have been, to wave their flags and cheer loudly. A semi-final place surpassed all expectations. We have a choice to be disappointed, dejected and despairing or to stand proud. There is sorrow but there is also so much joy.

Football didn’t come home in 2018 but maybe it was already here all along - we’d just forgotten to look beyond the winning

Wilson & Ward