Losing stinks. Especially when you put your heart and soul into something and it seems like something unfair happened to make you lose. How do we help our kids through this?
My robotics team recently went through this. We worked our guts out. First, we raised about $20,000 for our 9 month season. That’s a tall order for teenagers! They learned computer programming, engineering, 3D CAD design and printing, and kept an engineering notebook that documented everything. Heck, we also threw the very first robotics conference in our area and invited other teams, schools and anyone remotely interested in robotics.
And then in our final competition, at the Arizona/New Mexico state finals, after everything that could go wrong, DID go wrong, we regrouped, and started winning. We were doing our personal best. We weren’t number one, but we were happy with our comeback.
When they handed out the various awards at the end (the ones that didn’t depend on how many points your robot scored), we didn’t win a single one- which was totally disappointing. But what’s more…two out-of-state teams basically swept the competition. It felt like the whole state lost. It felt unfair, and we were ticked- not just for us, but for really great teams that usually win, that didn’t. It was an incredibly disheartening end to a physically and emotionally exhausting three days.
We took a few days off and then met again. It was important for me to help them process this. We had an ice cream sundae bar because ice cream is total comfort food, and then we did some emotional work:
1. We talked about how much it stunk.
Because it did. Ignoring that doesn’t make anyone feel better- instead it invalidates all of their feelings and hard work. I let them get everything off their chests.
2. We watched this video clip about losing that made us laugh.
I didn’t want to give them the standard “inspiring, but not inspiring” quotes or platitudes when we were still stinging. This video was just the thing. It gave us a reason to laugh, but also a bit of perspective about what losing really does for us. Later, I found
this video of a Russian rocket ship blowing up because they put the sensors on wrong, and this video of catastrophic mistakes. Because, you know. . . misery loves company!
3. We talked about the good things.
We talked about another team that helped us troubleshoot a recurring problem we’d been having. One of our drivers shared about how our robot malfunctioned–to our benefit! He felt it was a tiny miracle and and and an encouraging pat on the back from up above.
4. We talked about what we could do differently.
We did learn a lot from those out-of-state teams. Even though we wished they would have beaten us in a different competition instead of our own state tournament, seeing that level of play helped us think differently and re-examine how we did things.
5. We ate more ice cream.
Overall, the whole meeting turned out really well and we were able to end on a positive note. Everyone is feeling upbeat and positive about next year.