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Losing is Necessary

The following guest post, “Losing is Necessary,” is from Coach Ned Campbell, head wrestling coach at James Madison High School, NYC, where he also teaches American history.

A little boy was asked how he learned to skate. ‘By getting up every time I fell down,’ he answered. (David Seabury)

Every year I find myself talking to a complete stranger about losing. Not just one stranger, but dozens of strangers. This is the life a high school wrestling coach, recruiting kids to make a choice to take a chance, at the expense of having to lose in order to get better. Not an easy sell.

The average 14 year old does not have the long view of life, that ability to see themselves way off into the future. Without that perspective, there is no up-side to losing. That means kids can give up quickly, or in some cases, not even try.

losing Losing can make one realize they have things to learn, to improve upon. Knowing what you do not yet know, what you, as of yet, cannot do, that sets the stage for self-improvement. It is the early stimulus to further develop a work ethic.

In a typical conversation with a freshmen, and I am approaching the little guys, the kids weighing less than 100 pounds, typically the kid chosen last, or maybe never chosen, for a team, the issue of “what if I lose?” comes up. I try to lighten the mood by jokingly telling him, “It is not ‘if you are going to lose,’ because you are going to lose, no doubt about that.” Everybody does when they start out. I tell them all I did my first year of wrestling in high school was lose. I didn’t start winning until my second year of wrestling.

I go on to tell him he will have some tough days, but those are the days that make us stronger, and better. Those are the days that teach us lessons, and motivate us to work harder and do more. The memory of those bad days are also what makes the good days you will have all the more sweeter.

Once the season begins, and the losing happens, the young athlete may begin to doubt himself. With a shaken confidence, they are likely to start acting more discouraged, and their resolve to keep trying may begin to wane and weaken. It is at this time when we, the coach and the parents, have to step in and help them stay strong, and to persevere. We can remind them of the long haul, but we must also focus on the positive accomplishments, and areas where there is improvement. However small it may be, improvement is a positive good and deserves to be talked up and commended.

One example I have of this took place just this past season. A freshmen and 1st year wrestler was having a difficult time. He was not wrestling much, and when he did get a chance, he lost quickly. He was looking dejected and I took a moment to speak with him. I asked him if he remembered his first week of practices, how he could not do the push-ups, keep up on the run, and how sore he was the day after practice. He said yes, and then I reminded him how today he was doing the push-ups, and keeping up on the runs. I let him know he had already lost almost 20 pounds, while getting stronger. As a smile started to creep across his face, I saw that he got it. He got the idea of the long haul of work paying off, over time. He could see the progress and make the link to his hard work all season. He liked it.

His improvement over time was not only limited to his physicality. He has opened up more among his peer group. He is walking taller, smiles more quickly, and is improving academically with much better grades than the prior term.

Life is not always easy. There will be some tough times, but that doesn’t mean life is complicated. Believing that “If you fall down, you get back up,” may not be easy, but with the support of positive adults, it can be quite simple, and it can make all the difference in the world.

For more on what you can do to help the young athletes in your life, please visit the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA): a national non-profit with the mission to provide all youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.



When You are Involved in Your Child’s Education

In an article appearing in the NYU Child Study Center newsletter,  Anita Gurian, Ph.D, speaks to the importance of parents being involved in their children’s education and beginning that involvement in the elementary school years.

Dr Gurian cites research studies, which demonstrate the children of involved parents:

  • are absent less frequently
  • behave better
  • do better academically from pre-school through high school
  • go farther in school
  • go to better schools

She goes on to say that additional research also shows that a home environment that encourages learning is even more important than parents’ income, education level, or cultural background. By actively being involved in their child’s education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they’re demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is important.

In today’s world where both parents need to work, carving out time, even a brief amount of time for being involved in their child’s education is a challenge. If parents can manage to do so, it will be time that generates rewards for both parents and children.

The National Education Association ( NEA) recommends the following ways to be involved with your child’s education at home:

  • Read to your child — reading aloud is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child’s chance of reading success
  • Discuss the books and stories you read to your child
  • Help your child organize his/her time
  • Limit television viewing on school nights
  • Talk to your child regularly about what’s going on in school
  • Check homework every night (more…)

Happy New Year!

From All of Us on “Can Do” Street!


What’s New on “Can Do”Street…

  • In the past month, tourists from 92 countries visited “Can Do” Street! After the United States, the top ten countries are France, Great Britain, Taiwan, The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Canada, Russia, and China. The “Can Do” Kids welcome their new friends from around the world!
  • Check out the new coloring sheets you can download!

“Can Do” Street is Now a Free Site!

Bring your child or your class to “Can Do” Street and let them play the interactive, animated programs and games for free!  Download  the Parent/Teacher guidelines (lesson plans) for use with the programs. Print out activity sheets that reinforce the lessons found in each program. They are great for kids to use in between  computer sessions.

There are membership certificates and completion certificates that can be downloaded. Don’t forget to print out the dozens of coloring sheets of the “Can Do” Kids and adults. Check out the parent/teacher blog and the kids blog each time you visit to see what’s new on “Can Do” Street.

Each month a new activity, program or game will be added to the site. Email us with questions and suggestions at

Please tell your friends, fellow teachers and parents to come to “Can Do” Street where young children get to practice making good choices!


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