How many times has this scene been played out within the homes of American families? A dad attempts to console his child after a tough loss, and teach the value of sportsmanship. The father tells his son, “You know, winning is not the most important thing.” The dejected son replies, “Yeah, okay. But I hate being a loser.” And this is where the conversation can take multiple turns.

What should happen? The father should say something along these lines: “Son, losing a game does not make you a loser. Your attitude and effort make you a winner or loser. If you gave your best effort in order to win, had a positive attitude, had fun, and were the best teammate possible you are a winner.”

This past week we’ve heard a lot of talk about the actions of Cam Newton following his team’s Super Bowl loss. On Tuesday the NFL MVP said, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” To a certain extent he’s right, but one is only a loser if they embrace and accept losing.

Why do we see dejected athletes and coaches so often scrutinized for how they handle post-game press conferences?

Coaches and players are set up for failure.

I’m not 100% defending Cam’s action of getting up and leaving his post-game press conference. But watch this video, and tell me you would’ve have been upset being that close to an opponent who is questioning you and your teammates. The real error is on the NFL for allowing those two press conference to be that close to one another. Now, Cam still should have put in his ten minutes and answered questions just like all before him did, but I can understand his frustration.

Any coach or athlete will tell you we’ll give a great interview after a win, but after a loss it’s the last thing we want to do. Watch Peyton Manning after a win. His helmet is off and he’s all smiles. After a loss, his helmet is on and his head is down. Should he be faulted for that? Absolutely not. Everyone handles it a bit different. When you invest so much of yourself and your time, losing really hurts. And I think that’s the point Cam is trying to make. When you put your heart and soul into it, losing hurts.

Our basketball team has had back to back losing seasons. We’ve been very young and have had season-ending injuries hurt us this season. Losing is not fun. But our focus has been and will always be to build champions on and off the court. The tough times we’ve gone through the past two years have established a foundation upon which our future success will have been built. It’s extremely tough to go through, but you’re only a loser if you accept it. In a later post we’ll discuss how to manage a team during a losing season.

The scoreboard doesn’t make the individual or the team a loser. You become a loser when you give up, give in, and accept it. You become a winner by learning from failure and getting up to try again.

Here are five keys to be a good loser:

Get Up- As the Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” If you don’t lose you’re not trying hard enough. Failure is inevitable, but it’s how we respond to it which determines whether we’re winners or not.

Learn- In order to win consistently you have to go through “the process.” What does that mean? It means you must figure out what you do well, what you can improve on, what must be eliminated, and what must be added. Learn from the mistakes. Learning is life-long. Once you stop learning and growing, winning stops as well.

Hold On- Although you may change the things you do in order to reach your goals, you cannot change your values. Never lose sight of who you are for what you want. As it says in Mark 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Hold on to your values and principles; winning or losing should never change them.

Have Perspective- You might have lost a game. But in the grand scheme of things and the universe, how important is a high school basketball game? It’s not. What is important is who you are, who you become, and the relationships you build. Somewhere, someone will always have it worse and wish their biggest problem was losing a game. Count your blessings and express gratitude daily.

Display Sportsmanship- More important than winning and losing is the competition itself. Respect your opponent, because without them there would be no game. Winning helps build character, how we act after losing reveals our character. Respect your opponent and always respect the game.

What keys do you think are necessary for one to show growth from losing?

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!

Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.