Losses suck. Big time. Honestly, I’m often more upset when my kids lose than they are. (My daughter will definitely back me up on that!)
It’s hard not to be upset, especially after all the time, money and emotion you put into the sport and seeing your kid suffer disappointment is never easy.
But the longer my kids play, the more I realise that losses are actually a good thing, and here’s why.
- They are inevitable, so embrace them.
It’s a fact that most players on the tour lose more than they win.
Data provided by ATPWorldTour.com shows that out of 567 men that played at least 200 matches, only 277 have a positive win-loss record (48%). On the women’s tour 320 have played at least 200 matches and only 169 have a winning record (52%). It gets worse for players who only play 100-200 matches on tour. For men, only 26% have a positive record. For women, 33%.
Right now, on the ATP website it’s not until the 56th ranked player in the world do you get a positive win/loss ratio. On the women’s side, there are at least two women in the top 50 who don’t have a positive win/loss record. It’s weird to think you can be top 50 in the world and lose more than you win! But it’s true.
Many kids and their parents find this transition from winning most matches to losing around 50% of them, really hard. But at the pointy end of the game everyone is good, and no match is easy. So, celebrate the wins and accept the losses as part of the sport.
- You usually learn more from a loss.
Late last year I travelled with my daughter to play three junior ITFs overseas. I was positive about what might happen - she’d been playing well and training hard. But at the end of three very long weeks, she ended up losing first round twice and only made it to the second round in the other tournament.
In the last tournament she played one of the worst matches I’ve ever seen her play. You’ll know what I’m talking about - couldn’t hit a ball in, couldn’t move, couldn’t focus. It was a shit-show of Broadway proportions.
At the time there were a lot of reasons, personal and physical that contributed, but bottom line - my daughter didn’t prepare properly. She didn’t warm up well, get her gear in order, call her coach – the list went on. And piss-poor preparation gets piss-poor results.
Those losses hurt, but it meant she had to take a good hard look at what she was doing and why she was doing it. And to her credit she changed. It’s that change that helped her achieve some amazing results in some women’s tournaments not much later.
- Without the losses, the wins don’t mean as much.
The first time my daughter played in the national championships she lost every match but one. They play a Monrad draw in nationals which means that even when you lose you keep playing off for positions 1 – 32. Anyway, it was a bit of a disaster and by the end of the week the phrase ‘It’s a good experience’ was wearing a bit thin. My daughter was shattered.
Then COVID hit and there were no nationals for a while. My daughter continued to train hard and then two years later, she had another crack. This time she made semis. She was ecstatic and felt like all her hard work had been validated. And because she’d lost so badly the first time, she understood what the achievement of semis in a nationals actually meant.
- The wins keep you going, the losses keep you training.
When I played – a million years ago – I had an arch-nemesis, let’s call her Miss Borg. I played Miss Borg in tournaments for almost a year – and lost. Every. Single. Time. It got to the point where it didn’t matter if I won a tournament or beat anyone else. I just wanted to beat her.
Eventually I asked my dad what it would take. Not one to mince his words, his reply was: ‘You need to hit more than three balls in.’
And so, the work began. Every day we would go down to the courts and he would feed me balls. The aim – to hit more than three in a row in. We would start with forehands cross, then line, then backhands cross then line. Honestly, at the start I couldn’t hit three in a row. But I stuck at it and not long after I was hitting one hundred in a row. (I think my record was over 300 on the forehand cross.)
And I never lost to Miss Borg again.
Every kid has their Miss Borg – I know my kids do. And losing to them makes them want to get better.
So next time your kid loses, and you are having a hard time dealing with it, remember that losses are not only inevitable, but they can actually be a good thing.
By Anonymous Tennis Parent.