You win some. You lose some. And sometimes you really lose some. 

I drove almost 2 hours on my day off to go watch one of my high school sons play basketball. He played a decent game, all things considered, but his team lost 101-42. 

Yes, you read that right. They lost a high school basketball game by 59 points. 

It wasn’t all a loss: I got four hours round-trip with one of my other sons, we made some fun memories, laughed, and I got to cheer my high schooler on in his game.

But they still lost by 59 points!

With four sons who all play sports, we’ve watched a whole lot of basketball, soccer, flag football, and baseball games, as well as many cross-country and track meets. And while our boys haven’t lost all their games by 59 points/runs/goals/seconds, we’ve been on the losing end of a whole lot of games.

As we drove back home after the game, I thought through some of the lessons I’ve learned through my kids’ sports. I’ve been mulling over some of these thoughts for over a decade now, and hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes. Thankfully I’m not going to give you “59 Lessons We’ve Learned From Watching Our Kids Lose by 59 Points.” But I do think you’ll find these helpful if you are a parent of a sport-playing-kid.

I’ve learned my athlete isn’t greater than the team

I hate to admit it, but at times I put my son’s personal success over the success of the team. If he played well, but the team didn’t, then I was content. But if the team won and my son didn’t play well, then frustration set in. Too often I made my son more important than the team.

Any team, like the body of Christ, is made up of many parts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul compares the body of Christ to a human body. In order to properly function, a team needs an ear, eye, brain, colon, and many other parts. The human body, like the body of Christ, is incomplete without any of these parts. In the body of Christ, we need pastors, evangelists, teachers, hosts, administrators, and so much more. Likewise, a team needs a point guard, a tight end, or a high jumper.

For too long I wished for individual success for my boys over the success of the team. What a miss.

I’ve learned to empathize with coaches and refs

Coaching any kid’s sports team is mostly a thankless job. If you win, you’ve just done what you’re supposed to do. If you lose, everyone is mad at you.

Even when you win someone’s mad at you, primarily because you didn’t play their kid enough or in the right position.

I’ve learned to say, “Thank you, Coach.” I may not always agree with them, but I’ll admit they’re usually right and they know a lot more about the game than I ever will.

I’m even more glad I’m not the referee! Rarely is anyone happy with the ref.

If we could learn to thank the coaches and empathize with the refs, it’d change a whole lot about kid’s sports.

Encourage your children to always thank the refs and coaches after every sporting event. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” We can learn a whole lot from this verse!

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing."

Philippians 2:14

I’ve learned to lose well

You don’t always win, and you don’t always get a trophy.

In fact you rarely get a trophy.

Our kids need to learn how to be gracious winners and encouraging losers. Humility always wins and looks good on everyone. And when you’re down 101-42, you still play hard and hustle. You don’t quit and you don’t hang your head.

I need to practice what I preach here because this applies to a whole lot more than just kid’s sports.

I don’t always win at work and I definitely don’t always win at home as a husband and dad. But I need to be humble and still fight for my family. We fight for unity and we don’t always agree, but we better fight for and with each other for unity and Truth.

Remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10? “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

I’ve learned to put the needs of others before myself

Consider Philippians 2:4-7— “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself…” 

In sports, you can cheer a teammate on and encourage them. You can challenge them to play better. You can help a player on the other team up. Even when you’re down, you can encourage others. 

Again, this principle translates to all of life: within our families, neighborhoods, schools, and work.

In the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) we’re told to love God and love others (as we love ourselves). We get a wonderful opportunity in sports to practice putting the needs of others first— preparing us to do so elsewhere in life.

These lessons have been invaluable

I just did a little quick math: with four sons (16, 16, 14, 12) who’ve played multiple sports every year since they turned four or five, our kids have played on over 75 different teams.

It’s near impossible to summarize 75 teams and hundreds of athletic competitions down to four, neat lessons. The list is much longer, but the lessons we’ve learned as parents and as kids have been invaluable— in sports, yes, but more importantly as followers of Christ.