The Importance of Winning and Losing; How Do We Measure Success?

The Importance of Winning and Losing; How Do We Measure Success?

Winning and Losing
Coaches Weed and Johnson

Winning and Losing; How do we measure success?

Winning and Losing
Walt Disney on Winning and Losing

 Winning and Losing as  defined by Walt Disney is merely a matter of tenacity. But this post isn’t about the beatitudes of winning. It’s about the importance of winning, moreover the importance of losing and how we deal with it. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade! In life, you don’t always succeed, so what happens when you don’t? Do we run home crying or do we figure out what happened, why it happened, and how to deal with it?

Everyone wants to win, it’s human nature. Sometimes we don’t mind losing, but make no mistake about it – No one WANTS to lose, but what happens when you do?

I read a post today by a friend of mine, Coach Jeff Johnson, and it was Sooo ‘on the mark’ that I asked him to share his thoughts. This deals with the sport of wrestling and although it’s definitely a team sport, when you step out on the mat you’re all alone. Just you and your opponent, in the spotlight and theoretically, there’s only one winner.

Coach Jeff Johnson

I’m extremely competitive, but I also have some perspective. Youth/middle school are different than high school and college. It’s okay to be competitive at the higher end of youth sports, but not to the same degree as high school and college. The emphasis shouldn’t be only on winning and losing, it should be on skill development and creating a love for the sport. This sport is hard enough, if you don’t love it, you wont make it. Success at this level is not measured only by wins and losses. Its ok to keep track of records and be proud of accomplishments, but they shouldn’t be the only focus. We should be teaching kids how to win by teaching them about the process it takes to earn the right to win. Winning is a byproduct of doing all the little things right, take care of the little things and winning will take care of itself in time.

If the worst thing that ever happens to you is losing a wrestling match, you’re going to live a good life. If the best thing you ever do in life is win a youth wrestling tournament, you’re going to have a pretty sad life.

No matter how much you win, there is always another level to get to. Be proud of your accomplishments, but be humble and understand you need to get better. There is always someone better. Don’t think you know it all, there is always more to learn in this sport. There is always room for improvement. Kids at the youth level sometimes have a hard time understanding that, they win a few matches or tournaments and they think they know it all, and sometimes that is a product of coaching, sometimes it is on the athlete. We as coaches need to keep them humble, teach them to win with class, and keep the wins in perspective.

Winning and Losing
Gable Said It Best

We need to teach kids how to lose!

Nothing worse than seeing a tantrum after losing a match. Its ok to be upset, its ok to not like losing. Its not ok to be a jerk, poor sport or cry baby about. I had a coach tell me your true character is revealed when you get your butt kicked, everyone is classy and gracious in victory but their true colors come out when they lose. Dealing with a loss, overcoming adversity and disappointment are some of the biggest and most important lessons this sport can teach.

…at the end of the day you do it for the love of this great sport and for the kids, and when you read something like this from someone you coached who has been away from the sport for 10 years and had his own share of obstacles to overcome only to grow into a great successful adult, makes it all worth while.

“Jeff taught me how to win, and I have always appreciated that, but he also made me a better loser. We don’t lash out after getting beaten, we focus that frustration and use it to fuel future success… You learn to accept a loss without simply dismissing it. If any of his team reads this I hope they know how much the time that you spend on the mat will change your life. Practice your skills and focus your energy today, your making an investment that will pay off a thousand times over. Also, don’t forget to thank your coach”

I read an interesting article from Dennis Johnson EdD   “Recognizing and Celebrating Athletes and Teams”  .It deals with the problem of attrition in our sport and handing out trophies for participation not merit. It’s a short article but a great perspective.

Here are some  thoughts from a close friend and associate Coach Todd Weed:

Coach Todd Weed

“Once you have wrestled, everything else is easy” I believe that, that is the essence of our sport. Gable didn’t say “once you are a

Winning and Losing
Quotes From The Greatest

State Champion or Olympic Champion”. He said “once you have wrestled”. I met Dan Gable, on his mat in Iowa, at his camp. He shook my hand and said “glad to have you here, Coach”. “Coach”? He didn’t know me for Adam, but he called me “Coach”.

Why? Because he recognized me as a brother. A brother in a very difficult sport. Just as we, as coaches, recognize our young athletes as brothers and sons.

It’s not about being The best. It’s about being Your best. If your best is working hard, being dedicated to improving and having a wrestling season/match/practice that you know you did your best. Then you are a champion, period.

And….. To all of the crazy ass parents that think “Little Johnny” will be the next Cael Sanderson (Why my kids will wrestle) because he just won the local youth championship. “Forget it”.   Because there are a 1,000 other Little Johnny’s out there waiting to do the same thing.   Enjoy your child’s success. And shake the hand of his competitors parents.   They love their child too.

Not all kids are cut out to be wrestlers.
Its just not in their nature.
“We”, coaches, parents and fans need to be able to recognize that.
What if Jimi Hendrix dad had thrown away his guitar and pressured him to wrestle? Hendrix was an Airborne Ranger, a bad ass, but……On the other hand, what if Valentino Rossi’s father never put him on a motorcycle? My advice is this.
Expose your child to as many different activities as possible. Help them pursue the ones that fit their nature. Support their direction, teach them to accept failure as part of the learning process.  Then, set back and enjoy the ride. Create positive memories that you can share when they are adults.

5 thoughts on “The Importance of Winning and Losing; How Do We Measure Success?

  • February 18, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks Coach Johnson and Coach Weed…. You both express portions of my thoughts very eloquently! The ‘life lessons’ coach Sullivan taught me – thru the sport of Wrestling – have helped me be successful in every other aspect of my life.
    When I win – I win without excessive celebration. The win just means I have conquered a difficult milestone and am ready to tackle the next difficult task
    When I lose – I examine the reasons I lost (skipped necessary preparation, took unnecessary risks, under-estimated my opponent, etc.) and work to develop the techniques and skills to be successful next time
    And through it all I look to pay it back to others on the same journey – life!
    And made LOTS of great friends along the way!!

    • March 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Great comment coach. Wrestling is the most individual team sport I know of. Like you so aptly described, a lesson in how to live your life and be successful.

  • February 19, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Well said Jeff.
    My son learned alot from you.
    Wrestling is so much more then the fight.
    Anyone can do that.
    Thank you

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