The Value of Losing

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A California soccer league with young kids has decided it wants no losers. They don’t keep score at the soccer games. They must not be sure that makes everybody feel good, so at the end of the season they give everybody a trophy.

In normal sports games, you win and you lose. In business you win and you lose. In life you lose someone close to you sooner or later.

I don’t understand this shielding someone from losing, like maybe it goes away altogether?

Our son played sports starting when he was eight. His teams won some games and lost some. He never liked to lose, but it gave me an opportunity to explain to him how you adapt to loss. He played football, basketball and baseball in junior high, and football and baseball in high school. His best sport was probably baseball, and my wife and I assumed, if he played any sport in college, it would be baseball. He played football for Coach Bryant at Bama.

In junior high and high school, losses took on a more significant meaning, and I had to try and give him a perspective about how you get up the next morning after a loss and move on. I wish I could say the explanations were always simple, but they weren’t. I wish I could remember what I said at the time, because there may be parents who read this that are facing the same situations with their kids right now, and they’re going through exactly what I went through.

I can say I always tried to cover losses as thoroughly as I could, also always trying to pre-cover losses that might be in front of him. I don’t think I anticipated the one that would carry the most weight in the lives of our entire family.

On January 1, 1975 Alabama played Notre Dame for the National Championship in Miami. Bama lost 13-11. It was certainly too late for me to explain how our son should act after that loss. In fact, if there is anyone reading this, if you or a relative have had a bigger sports loss, I wish you would send me a comment and let me know what it was, and how you and/or your relative responded.

I knew the loss tore our son apart, but he didn’t let it get him down. He actually felt worse for the seniors on the team, because they had no more chances at a National Championship the next year or the year after that.

Coach Bryant emphasized teamwork—we win as a team, and we lose as a team. Of the bowl games our son played in, that was his best game, but it meant little when you lose.

But this is part and particle of life. The stage might not be as large as this for most people, but what loss they are experiencing is just as important as what our son felt late on the night of January 1, 1975.

You’ve got to know how to rise up from the ashes of defeat. You have to believe the sun will come up the next day, and the day after that.

Our son had a few days off from school, before the new classes began in late January. I did observe his attitude, but his demeanor didn’t change that much. I was hoping what he and I had talked about before in dealing with losses had something to do with that. But much as the explanations about losing changed between the time he was young and then went to junior high and high school, the explanations of losses took on a different meaning as he became a young adult in college. I wasn’t sure I had anything to do with the way he reacted after the Bama loss.

It was probably Coach Bryant in the locker room after that loss late on the night of January 1, 1975. He was the master psychologist in winning, but he was also the master psychologist in losing, although losses were few and far between. As long as you left everything out on the field, Coach Bryant was with you 100%, win or lose.

Those California kids who are shielded from defeat and other places that do the same thing I have read about and also seen on TV, are in for some major shocks. I don’t know how they will handle them. When you’ve never faced them before, they become soul-shakers. And that shouldn’t be.

Take your losses as they happen. That gives you some insulation for the bigger ones to come, and believe me, in the majority of cases, they will come, in some form or the other.

If you crumple or crumble, I will know what your background is. If you’re still standing afterwards, I’ll know those who taught you, taught you about life, not a fictional reality.

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