By James Leath (this first appeared on his blog at www.JamesLeath.com)
October 9, 2015
A former student athlete of mine was awarded a full ride to play NCAA D1 football and he called me recently, just to talk. Calls from former athletes are a huge highlight in any coach’s day.
“Coach, what is the difference between winning and losing?”
I think for a moment, and the scene from the movie White Men Can’t Jump pops into my head, when Gloria Clemente says: “Sometimes when you win, you actually lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.” [LINK]
Clearing that from my head, and knowing that this must have been on his mind for a long time to be asking me so early in our conversation, I respond:
There was silence on the other end of the line. I waited. I would have waited as long as it took while he tried to figure out what his old coach was trying to tell him.
“Okay, coach, I give in. What does that mean?”
“What does it mean to you?”
“Well, if I know you well enough, you are getting deep on me right now and it doesn’t have anything to do with the scoreboard.”
He knows me well.
“When was your last practice?” I ask.
“Early this morning.”
“Did you run sprints?”
“Line to line?”
“Yes, I always touch the line.”
“Does everybody touch the line?”
“No, some guys get close, but they get lazy.”
I wait. I can almost hear the light bulb go on through the phone.
“Three inches is about the distance they get to the line!”
“You got it. Winning and losing is not in your control,” I explain. “Instead of concerning yourself with the score, be a competitor. Who is coming in first during the sprints? Beat them. Who stays after practice to catch a few more throws? Catch more. A competitor does not worry about the scoreboard or stats or social media fans. A competitor shows up to be the best they can be and their hunger for improvement is never satiated.”
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