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How Do I Deal With Loss?

A brief lesson on the value of winning and losing

I have two sons. I coached both in Little League baseball. Each new season, I would write a letter to the parents of my team. In the email, I communicated my intentions as a coach: to teach their kids how to play the game, win fairly and learn from their losses. I wasn’t interested in any parent negativity or micromanaging.

One day, I got a message from our local Little League leader telling coaches that we wouldn’t be keeping score anymore. “We're not going to have winners or losers,” they said.

I was floored. Never in my life had I known of a sport without winners or losers. Those who play sports know that the distinction between winning and losing is a crucial component of competition and a great opportunity to practice dealing with the inevitabilities of life.

During games, the kids would often come into the dugout asking, “Coach, what’s the score? Are we winning or losing?” If they heard we were winning, it would immediately encourage them and enhance their performance with a jolt of confidence. If they heard we were losing, it was a critical opportunity for me and the other coaches to encourage them and help them navigate the disappointing reality. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss player strategy, reinforce lessons from practice, and implement good attitudes.

Now when kids came in the dugout, I figured I’d have to say either, “Guys, we’re tied.” Or worse, we’re not keeping score to which I knew a few smart athletes would lose any and all desire to continue, “What are we playing for anyway?”

Truth be told, I couldn’t do it. I would tell them the truth. Losing is part of life. There’s often a winner and there's a loser, at least in games. It’s a nice thought that everyone could always be a winner, but let’s be honest, it’s not reality. And teaching those boys anything contradictory to reality would be doing them a disservice. Instead, my hope was to show them how to lose well, and to use that loss as a means of greater future gains.

The losses that have happened in my life, which have been considerable, has made me into a better man. They have helped me want to win more and achieve more and accomplish more and be all that God crafted me to be. I couldn’t do that if I did not experience loss or failure. And I’m sure I will encounter more losses ahead of me.

But in order to win well, we need to lose sometimes. At times we need to fail, and when we do we need to get back up, and learn from those failures, those mistakes, and those losses so that we can experience victory.

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