To Lose Gracefully

There is a line of The Deerhorn Creed that says “To play every game on the level, win modestly, lose gracefully, and have a kind word for the opposing side.”  To live that line of the Creed isn’t always easy.  Who doesn’t love to win and hate to lose? How hard is it to play every game on the level when those around you are cheating, and winning?  But the most important part of that line of the Creed may be how to lose gracefully.

    Life is full of disappointments.  Whether it’s not making the cut on the soccer team, not getting chosen to be a Deerhorn leader, or not getting into the college you were hoping for, we have to learn how to cope with disappointment.  We, as parents, want our children to succeed.  We want them to be happy and to achieve everything they put their mind to.  We want to protect them from failure, from disappointment, from sadness.  But this isn’t realistic.  It’s an important skill, teaching kids how to deal with failure.  It helps them develop grit, which has been recently talked about as one of the most important factors in determining a child’s success later in life.  Grit is  a passion & perseverance of effort to overcome obstacles or challenges. It’s the “never give up” attitude that helps kids become more resilient for dealing with setbacks in life.   By coping with a setback themselves, they develop confidence, overcome fear, and are more willing to try something new the next time.  Two great articles I have come across about this topic are worth a read.  One is by the New York Times and is called “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” and the other one is by the Atlantic and titled “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail.”   They both speak to the importance of letting kids do things on their own, rather than trying to micromanage and do it for them.

   And here we come back around to why kids need camp.  One of the most important skills kids learn at camp is the willingness to try. No, you might not get up on your first time skiing, but our counselors are there to pull you over and over until you do get up and go all the way around the lake with that smile of pride on your face.  No, your team might not always win the big event, but the fun is being part of the camaraderie of that team.  No, you might not have ever sailed before, and you might fall out of the boat on your first try, but we’re there to help you get back in.  The willingness to try and the grace to deal with setbacks are achieved on a daily basis at camp.  It is a safe place, a place where the effort is more important than the outcome.  The photo above shows an all-camp “Machine Gun Run” which took place after a new Sunday event, called Pugawagan.  Note that you can’t tell from the picture who won.  This was how the event ended, with the entire camp running into the water, forming a circle, and singing Deerhorn Hall.  Over the years, we have noticed that while our leaders are still competitive with each other, it matters a whole lot less these days who actually wins the summer.  A common quote from the 4th place team is usually “Fourth in points, first in fun.” The effort is more important than the outcome.

    Recently, we had a parent write to us a story of their son who had recently tried out for his high school team.  We love hearing stories like these, that prove to us the relevance of the Creed and the impact a summer at Deerhorn has on hundreds of boys.

“As you are probably aware, our son is a serious athlete, and he has historically used his free time at Deerhorn to run and prepare for high school tryouts.  Well, he experienced a major disappointment a few weeks ago when he was not selected for the high school team.  What we wanted to share with you was how well he handled this setback; there were no tears, no angry outbursts.  He acted with the grace, dignity, good sportsmanship, and self-reflection that would make you Broadbridges very proud.  He even shared some of the words of wisdom he had picked up over the years, and especially a recent story from Coach Kinney, all of which helped him navigate through this difficult time.  We cannot properly express our gratitude for the values and strength of character that you have helped instill in our son.”

That parent was right. We ARE incredibly proud of him, and how he showed the world what it means to live the Deerhorn Creed.  How has the Deerhorn Creed influenced you or your son in your daily life?

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