... on Those Great Losers
Too often we talk about winning and fail to mention the other side of sports--"Losing!"
If you take the time to consider the latter of the two, I am sure you have witnessed some great losers. Yes, that's what I said "Great Losers!" Now this may seem contrary to all the ideals we associate with the spirit of competition. Nonetheless, I can assure you that it's the courageous runner-ups in life that have played significant roles in the making of our glorious champions.
These individuals could have chosen more comfortable paths to walk, competing against those of lesser ability. But no, they preferred the hard road where their foremost adversaries would be traveling. The real losers of the world are not made of this fiber.
Now I can honestly note that some of my most thrilling and gratifying moments as a coach have involved such gallant losers. This breed of athletes has always inspired me. And I sometimes wonder who truly gains more from a sport, the winner that finds the going easy or the loser that works to the final buzzer.
What do you think?
There's an old athletic saying, "No one ever remembers who came in second." This quote is not entirely a fair one. At the very least, one person will never forget his or her name--the champion!
... on the Most Important Loss of My Life
It was the final match of my high school wrestling career. I lost 4-3 in the Pennsylvania state finals. I was devastated. But I would later realize how lucky I was that chilly March evening of so long ago. Allow me to explain.
Wrestling was my life from third grade to my senior year in high school. It was the only thing that I cared about. School work was just a necessary evil; I had to keep my grades up to be eligible to wrestle. All I did in class was daydream about my next match.
Over the years, my dedication to wrestling was paying-off with big dividends. I became the youngest matman ever to win a state championship at our school, which is steeped in wrestling tradition. I broke the all-time record for most wins. And if I would have won that final match my senior year, I would have been dubbed the most successful wrestler (at that time) to ever don a Shamokin "Greyhound" uniform. It was not to be.
Not only did I lose, but I lost to a wrestler I felt I should have beaten. It was as though something inside stopped me from performing to my fullest ability. My parents tried to cheer me up. But I still cried that night as I sat alone on my bed, blaming everyone and everything. Why had wrestling betrayed me!
It was hard getting up for classes on Monday morning, and I walked slowly through the snow to school in a steeped in deep depression. My first period course was English. During the class, our teacher introduced us to Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." That night I read the entire play, and something in my psyche changed as the theme of the drama was revealed to me. I realized then that no sport should ever become larger than life, and that learning was the essence of a truly rewarding existence. My parents always tried to tell me this, but I didn't listen; wrestling would take me anywhere I wanted to go.
I started spending more time studying at home, redirecting all my energies from the physical to the cerebral. My grades began to improve, and I must admit that my first "A" in English felt just as good as winning a match. But more importantly, I realized I didn't have to be just another "jock." Oh, I still hung out with my athletic buddies, but every now and then I would shoot the breeze with the pencil pushers - the nerds. I found out that they were pretty cool, too.
I went to college on an athletic scholarship, but with a new game plan. Although I wrestled in college, the sport was no longer an end in itself, but a means to the end - a college education. And to be quite honest, I enjoyed every minute of my higher learning experience.
Today I thank God for that final crushing loss in high school because it turned out to be the greatest victory of my life!
WRESTLING WORDS OF WISDOM
"Even in the dictionary, academics come before athletics."
- William A. Welker