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A Word about Character and “Losing”

A Word about Character and “Losing”

It seems that, over the past few years, a phenomenon has been taking place at youth sporting events referred to in the New York Times as “Silent Saturday.” At these events, parents and even coaches are asked to refrain from cheering, rooting for, encouraging, and even coaching the kids.Harold Duncan Cut Out Feb 2013

Theoretically, such behavior runs the risk of (1) putting too much pressure on the kids and (2) making the kids on the other team feel bad about themselves when a goal is scored against them or they actually lose the game.

Many of us grew up participating in youth sports–both organized and of the “sand lot” variety. We also have supported our children and grandchildren in similar activities, because we know the benefits are numerous. In team sports we can learn some of the most important and valuable life lessons possible.

  • Teamwork
  • Individual Responsibility
  • Checking our Ego
  • Practice, Patience and Persistence
  • Positive Mentors
  • Physical Activity

However, one of the benefits of team sports rarely mentioned is learning to “lose” in a healthy way.

Michael Jordan is one of the most outstanding basketball players (and athletes) ever!

In 1997, Nike filmed a commercial that has since become know as the “Michael Jordan Failure Nike Commercial.” Please watch:

“And that is why I succeed!”

Certain words and terms, in my opinion, are desperately in need of redefinition or at least clarification. Among them, “Winning” and “Losing.”

Two mistakes are commonly made regarding these terms. Some tend to believe:

  • If I lose in a particular endeavor, I am a loser.
  • If I win, I am a winner.

Both beliefs are erroneous.

The mistake is made when we confuse behavior with identity or character.

When I (or my team) fail to win, that simply means that someone else or some other team performed better in that one instance. It also means that I may have some things to learn and/or practice in order to improve my “performance.” 

“Losing” is not a statement about my identity or about my character.

People who fail to recognize this distinction may also be so obsessed with “winning” that they will resort to any number of underhanded, illegal and otherwise unethical behaviors simply to “beat” everyone else. In the process, true character has been sacrificed–and that sacrifice is serious indeed!

Real “winners” will always behave in ways that are honest and honorable regardless of the short-term outcomes (winning or losing) and regardless of who may be watching at the moment.

I leave you with two quotes:

“Whatever you are physically–male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”

Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 –Martin Luther King, Jr.

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