Winning, Losing, and Learning

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Winning, Losing, and Learning

Life is going to kick us in the pants. It is. There is no avoiding it. It kicks you, me, our players, our own children, everyone. More than once, we are going to feel the wrath of defeat and hardship. It’s coming. But that wrath and defeat and hardship does not have to translate into failure and loss. It can – and I always hope it does – perpetuate learning.

When we work and train hard, victories taste sweeter – and defeat is more painful. Achieving victory is great. Victory is what we strive for as individuals and for our teams. Most of what we can gain from victory is confidence. Too much confidence becomes a quandary and can set us up for failure if we can’t manage the success.

I am one of the most competitive people I know. I always teach my players and teams to play to win. Mediocrity is easy, and anyone can be average. But as strange as it may sound, our players need the pain of defeat as well; perhaps more so than the victories. Defeat is what motivates us to get back up and fight again. Defeat is what builds our character and what teaches us the lessons we need to mature and grow. Defeat is the edification process of sports, competition, and life.

There are different kinds of defeat. Sometimes another team or person outperforms us and beats us. But other times, we underperform and then take nothing from the experience. Suffering only becomes failure if we do not learn from our mistakes. Losing breeds only losers when the defeated give in, quit, make excuses and begin to feel sorry for themselves.

It is my job as a coach to help our kids learn from every experience, including defeat. As much as they hurt – and within themselves, stink – defeat and losses are necessary events for personal growth and development as athletes and as individuals. Whether you are an athlete, businessman or woman, parent or teacher, if we learn from defeat and gain confidence from our victories, “There is no failure!”

There are in fact tribulations on and off of the courts that test us in our lives every day. They test our willpower, our discipline, our resolve. We are tested athletically, physically, emotionally and psychologically. None of these tests or tribulations are meant to be punishment. They present opportunities for us to grow and strengthen ourselves as human beings and as athletes.

The defeats, roadblocks, obstacles or whatever it is in our lives we see as setbacks are not truly losses unless we allow them to be. They are necessary events in the building of balanced character and maturity. We shouldn’t dwell in the defeat but look for the opportunities the losses bring. Furthermore, regardless of the number of setbacks or defeats we encounter, we are only losers if we do not make an effort to learn, grow from the defeats. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” [Proverbs 24:16]

Winning is a great thing, but only when it is respected and appreciated. Getting beaten is a part of life and should be the motivating and balancing force towards improving our lives and winning our next battle. Always, always dare to dream bigger, aspire to do more and never settle for mediocrity. As a coach, I play to win but teach life experiences from setbacks. Those setbacks are needed to appreciate the highs even more. Life is going to kick our players in the pants. It’s up to us as coaches and mentors to teach them how to land when they get knocked down – and to make sure they always get back up. Then when those victories come, they mean even more.