I had an interesting conversation with Coach Greg Brown this morning -- one of the great perks of working here at UCF. We were talking about how it seems that a great number of young people simply don't seem to hate losing enough. When they fall short they simply move on. I honestly believe that part of it is societal. We live in a time where every kid gets a trophy -- whether they've earned it or not. This is not to say that there can never be glory in losing -- if you have valiantly laid everything you have on the court -- and in preparation as well. It's not to say that moving on after a loss isn't important either -- it is. But HOW you move on speaks volumes about how successful you will be.
I read a quote the other day where Urban Meyer said he had never lost a game where his team had properly prepared. Certainly Coach Meyer has more talent to work with than the majority of is but when talent competes against talent, the more prepared team usually wins.
I think it is the detail and effort of preparation that causes losing to be so painful. You have made sacrifices through work in your preparation -- including the off-season -- to be victorious. Those that don't seem to let losing bother them much are often the ones who didn't care to put too much into preparation....and they will will lose more than they should.
Vince Lombardi once said (and has been often criticized for saying it) that "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." He has also said as times that he wished he would have worded it differently and said "Wanting to win isn't everything. It's the only thing."
As Greg and I were discussing how little losing seems to bother so many these days it took me back to my freshman year at Marshall University where I had a basketball coaching class from the Thundering Herd's late head coach Stu Aberdeen.
Coach Aberdeen talked about the importance of winning and "teaching people the importance of winning."
I can remember as if it were yesterday him saying, "If you are on the operating table and fighting for every breath just to hang on, you better hope that doctor wants to win more than anything else in the world. You'd better hope that the taste of losing is so bitter that he will do anything and everything he can to win." Coach Aberdeen continued, "If you are in a court of law and you've been falsely accused of a major crime, you better hope that winning is the most important thing in the world to your lawyer. That he is expending every ounce of energy he has to victory."
It was a powerful statement that has stayed with me my entire life.
While at LSU, John Trelor was an assistant coach for the men's staff. John had also served on the staff of Bob Knight. I asked John what made Coach Knight's teams so successful. He told me there were two reasons and one of them was the fact that Knight made everyone in the program hate losing. He would create shared suffering -- making life miserable for the players and the staff to the point that they would be determined to win the next game.
While I might not believe in all of Coach Knight's tactics, I do believe that you must have consequences for losing -- losing in drills, losing in practice, and losing games. Losing cannot be accepted if you fell short in giving your best.
And this I think is a great life lesson.
God forbid but should our country end up in World War III in 20 years, will we have young men and women that will have the same resolve to win as did the generation that saved a our nation in World War II?
What are we doing to teach our student-athletes to compete? What are we doing to help them understand the importance of winning and losing -- not just on the court but beyond? Again, losing with honor can come about because you gave everything you had -- that in itself is victory. But how many times have you played a game or even went through a practice where EVERYTHING was given? We must continue to push for more -- and not just from them but more importantly from us!
I know coaches that get over losses extremely quickly these days as well. We must be the example of competitive spirit for our teams.
WANTING to win is not everything -- it is the ONLY thing. It has to be the fire that flames our passion. As Greg pointed out this morning, you can tell when someone is passionate about something. It shows in their preparation. It shows in their enthusiasm. And it shows when the meet a momentary failure.
One more from Coach Lombardi: "Let me tell you what winning means? It means you're willing to go longer, work harder, give more than anyone else."