What's So Great About Losing?

October 04, 2016



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I think one of the best things about CrossFit is how frequently athletes are exposed to defeat.

That may sound like a crazy thing to say, but let me explain where I'm coming from.

Yesterday my daughter's undefeated 7th grade volleyball team lost their last game of the season.  As much as I would have loved to see them end the season on a high note, I think the lessons they learned as they grappled with a painful loss were worth more to them in the long run.

After the game ended, my daughter walked across the court, made eye contact with us, and immediately burst into tears.  I gave her a hug, and told her...

"Put a smile on...It's good to lose sometimes."

As soon as the words left my mouth, I started to feel a little hypocritical.   I hate to lose.  I love to win.  What's so great about losing anyway?

After wrestling with the question for a while...I came up with this list...I'm sure it's not exhaustive, but it's a start.

1.  Losing exposes our weaknesses.

How will you ever know what to work on if you never get your keyster kicked?  My daughter's team may need to practice remaining calm under pressure. I may (ok, I definitely do) need to practice my handstand push-ups.

At the 2010 CrossFit Games, Rich Froning Jr. lost to Graham Holmberg in the final event because he couldn't climb a rope.  I'm pretty sure he started practicing rope climbs a bit more after that.

Losing puts us face to face with the areas we need to grow, and motivates us to work on our shortcomings more than winning ever will.

2.  Winning isn't fun if you always win.

While Micheal Phelps wins most of the time, I doubt he'd still get enjoyment out of swimming if he won ALL the time.  It would grow old.  He would get tired of it.

In the same way, I'm sure victory will taste a bit sweeter next time my daughter's team puts themselves back together, and wins another game.

CrossFit gives us the opportunity to feel defeat, along with some sort of victory almost every time we step inside the box.  I think this mix of challenges and success helps us mentally prepare for the ups and downs of life.

When we fail, we get used to picking ourselves up, analyzing  what went wrong, and working to improve.

When we win, we get to reinforce the truth that hard work pays off, that striving makes success possible, and that effort achieves goals.

3.  Losing reminds us that Volleyball/Basketball/Football/CrossFit...is NOT life.

I'm sure you've seen t-shirts with slogans that say Football is Life...Basketball is Life, etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  These are games.  Just like CrossFit is a game.

What a gift it was for my daughter's team to discover the pain involved when we view sports through a "life or death" lens.  If we equate sports with life, we'll equate losing with death. 

Luckily, losing isn't death.  My daughter's team got to see that the walls didn't come crashing down when they lost, and that their value to their families and friends didn't depend on their performance.  I hope their experience will help them see that they were created for a purpose that is bigger than an undefeated volleyball season.

As much as I LOVE sports, and as much as I know that they teach lessons ABOUT life,  they are not life.

Final Thoughts...

I'm grateful that my daughter got to experience loss, and for the opportunity to think through some of my own feelings about defeat.

If you share my competitive tendencies, I hope the words I spoke to my daughter will come back to you if you need to hear them.  I also hope that you'll speak them to me if you ever see me having a post-loss pity party...

Put a smile on...It's good to lose sometimes :)

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Ian Sturgeon
Ian Sturgeon

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