The Agony of Deparent

By John Kessel | May 31, 2018, 10 a.m. (ET)


In volleyball, there is one simple truism that runs through the annals of the sport worldwide.

Half the teams playing … LOSE!

For those wanting percentages, all matches result in 50 percent of the teams in each contest ending up as the loser. Every day, for more 100 years, this has been happening …

Parents agonizing over defeat need to learn to enjoy all matches, including losses, and spend more time teaching the values and lessons to be gained in the journey, through the losses, not just the wins. Players can give their all, but even having done that, there are no guarantees of success.

“Somewhere in the world there is defeat and victory for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and others are made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.” – John Steinbeck

While winning a junior national title is a goal for many, the largest number of lessons and experiences happen in qualifying and attending the event. Simply put, we need to teach the journey. There are too many in the sport who are whining, blaming everyone but themselves, sulking, crying, even threatening to sue … hey, wake up, this is just a game. It is thus supposed to be fun. We are so blessed with the chance to compete, in good gyms with great volleyballs in well-organized events.

I have in my office a ball made by kids in Africa made from banana tree leaves. Those kids compete (half winning, half losing) on dirt courts over a rope. The boisterous joy of their play, and the good nature seen by both winners and losers is a good lesson for all.

Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Don’t overreact to the little errors in the game as if they are gold-medal points. Relax! Ignore the errors. Celebrate the successful plays. Focus on the performance, not the outcome. Learn to control what you can control. Cheer on your child. For kids, volleyball is just fun; it’s not a possible college scholarship. If you find yourself thinking that winning is a relief, rather than a thrill, it’s time to rethink the program.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Wins do not enter this formula. Developing those skills come first. Mistakes happen during that development. And there will be countless mistakes.

Volleyball Nations League Nebraska

Losing is no fun. But the temper tantrums of some after losses is an embarrassment to the sport. We must eradicate tantrums, verbally and physically abusive coaching and spectator behavior from our sport. The clipboard slamming, foot stomping, chair yanking preschool antics of supposedly professional coaches must go.

Let’s let the referees call the game as best they can. USA Volleyball has the best officials and best officials training in the world, producing World Championship, Olympic and Paralympic Games officials. But like every player out there, the referee will make errors.

The referee calls it as they see it from their vantage point, and that is unique to their position. There is a reason we don’t place officials in the spectator seating or the coaches’ bench. Like our players, referees get better with more training and more experience. Please take the time to thank these valuable officials who are integral to our sport and our kids’ experiences on the court.

Remember volleyball is a game that teaches life lessons and life after the loss begins as soon as the final whistle blows. Feel good about those wins but cherish the experience either way.

For the original version of this article, visit the Parent Sportkit.