It's every cheer mom and dad's nightmare: your child's team loses the big game; the all-or-nothing competition; a bid to the next event. Whether it's for a sideline cheerleading squad or a competitive all-star team, it can happen to any team. It doesn't feel good, but it also doesn't have to be devastating.

Maybe they just weren't the best that day, maybe they dropped a group stunt or dismount, maybe they stumbled instead of tumbled. No matter what happened that day, or even throughout the season, how a parent handles a loss goes a long way toward shaping their child's attitude and cheer sportsmanship.

Don't Treat Them Like A 'Loser'
Even if your child had fault in the loss (if they dropped a cheer stunt or stepped out of bounds), treat the opportunity as a learning and growing experience. Yelling at them is counterproductive; remember that they have already been coached by the appropriate person–their coach. It's likely that their pride is hurt, and as their parent you should help make sure that they don't lose their confidence. Kids can be their own worst enemy after a loss, and it could lead to frustration and bitterness.

Ask The Right Questions
After a big event, is the first question that you ask: "Did you win?" Or is the first thing that you say to them something that references their 'win or lose' status? Try to refocus your view of competition by putting some of the emphasis on the experience, and living under a motto that you don't have to define anyone as a loser.

Keep your cheerleader from sulking by asking her about her overall experience and zoning in on the positives. Did she stick a new move for the first time? Did the team perform a new stunt that they have been working really hard on? Did she have fun?

Focus On Strengths and Improvements
It's pretty common for cheerleading parents to be present (and loud!) at events. While you're there watching your cheerleader perform, make notes of improvements that she is making. Did she nail a stunt that she wobbled on last time? Did she stick the landing for a complicated tumbling pass?

Keep track of her progress throughout the season, and point those things out to her after any event, but especially after a tough loss. It's likely that she was so into her performance that she may not have noticed those small, but significant achievements. By focusing on elements of a performance, instead of just the final score or result, you give them a chance to learn more and become stronger by learning positive ways to deal with a loss.

Challenge Them To Challenge Themselves
Many athletes tend to compete against themselves. Turn this mental game into a progress-make, instead of a stress-maker, by coming up with personal challenges for each practice, game and competition. This will help make them a braver and more confident performer, and it will build their leadership skills.

Take the time after a loss to open a conversation with your cheerleader about what cheerleading means to them. Have them take a good look at their own perception of 'team' and 'champion', and also help remind them that they are making friends, learning life skills and keeping their body healthy.