Winning, Losing, and Learning
by Paul Thomson, Drake Women's Tennis, 12 September 2011
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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.
Coach Thomson with his Drake
courtesy, Drake Athletics
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. Some times 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, business man 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.