Jackie Robinson once said this about winning and losing: “Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he is losing; nobody wants you to quit when you are ahead.”
All great competitors hate to lose. Early in my career, everyone around me suffered after a loss because I had a tendency to wear my losses on my sleeve until the next win. That’s not a “good look” for a husband and a father. My immaturity and lack of desire to “shake” a loss and move on is not something I’m proud of. Thankfully, this flaw in my personality didn’t destroy me and all of those around me. I eventually matured – somewhat – as a coach.
One lesson learned early in my career: lecturing a team for 15-20 minutes after a tough loss is a waste of time. Going over “game notes” is better received the following day at practice. We need to seek “teachable” moments. Think about it; when you combine pre-game batting practice, infield/outfield drills, field preparation and game time, a player can be on the field for six hours. Especially after a loss, players are physically and emotionally drained…not to mention-hungry. Post game meetings should be very short. Usually, as a coach, things looked much differently to me 12-16 hours after a loss.
A very good friend is coaching at a prominent Division l school. His team got off to a tough start this season. In my attempt to encourage him, I said this…“You can win every day. You can win by celebrating the victories and learning from the losses.” If we are open to it, God will teach us many valuable lessons during times of adversity. Most of us are more receptive to learn after a loss (after a period of time). So, instead of having a “pity party” after a loss and blaming players, assistant coaches or the umpires, we should be more reflective and prayerful about our personal role in the loss…then, God can teach us a lot about coaching.
John Wooden once said, “Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being free of admirers then.” We may feel alone after a loss or losing streak. But, we don’t have to feel alone. It’s a good thing to turn to God for wisdom when our backs are against the wall. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
True winners learn, grow and bounce back quickly after a tough loss. Football coach Nick Saban knows something about winning. He said this; “One thing about championship teams is that they are resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.”
Baseball is so unique in that we suffer more losses during a season, simply because we play so many games. But, fortunately, we usually don’t have to wait an entire week to play. Baseball coaches and players don’t have a lot of time to carry a loss. If we don’t recover quickly from a loss, we will find ourselves mired in losing streak.
One way that we can win every day is to not get too high emotionally when we win or too low when we lose. We can win, even when we lose.