Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everybody is not always a winner.  We live in a society where everyone is scared to tell a kid that they lost and in a society where everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon, proclaiming they won.  This just isn’t real life.  How does this prepare a young player for the real world once sports are done?

Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% always about making girls feel great about themselves and helping them become the best people they can be, not just the best players they can be.  But here is what I know: There is always a winner, and there is always a loser.  If there is not a winner or a loser, then there really isn’t a competition happening.  If we are teaching kids that everyone is a winner, then we aren’t teaching them real life; we aren’t preparing them for what’s ahead.  Knowing that there is a winner and a loser is what drives competitiveness.  That competitiveness is going to be needed and used long after softball is over.

The more competitive players are going to be the players who show up to the ballpark every day with a desire to WIN.  That idea of winning is going to be what motivates them to practice more, so that they can help out the team more when it is game time in order to WIN.  The idea of winning is always going to be what motivates them to stay focused during the game for the entire 7 innings, because they know that if they lose focus, there could be a bad inning, which could result in losing.   A will to win will also motivates them to be a leader and help their teammates become the best players they can be, thus ensuring more wins than losses.

Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for success in life? — Hard work. Focus. Leadership. Teamwork.

Hmm…those things sound familiar.  Oh right!  They’re the major keys to having success in life and success in a career.  But, if everyone wins, then players will not feel that sense of urgency to have a work ethic and drive unlike any other.  There has to be something at stake.  And every time you enter a game, winning is at stake.  Learn to win.  Learn to lose.  Hate losing more than you like winning.

Take an in-game example.  Other than just on the scoreboard, throughout the game there is a winner and a loser with every at bat that happens.  A pitcher either wins the battle or a hitter wins the battle.  Think of that tense situation with the bases loaded, 2 outs, tie ball game.  I want the pitcher in the circle or hitter up to bat on my team who KNOWS there is a winner and a loser. She doesn’t get scared of it.  She just accepts it.  BUT, she wants to win so bad that the will to win overcomes the fear of losing.  Sometimes this player with the will to win and uber competitive drive isn’t even the most talented player on the team, and that’s totally okay.  When it comes down to it, I want the competitive player over the talent.

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

If we aren’t coaching to win (to truly be the ONE winner), then we are not teaching to compete.  You must lose to truly be able to appreciate winning. The way we learn is to fail.  Losing is considered failing.  If everyone is always a winner, then we never truly learn to fail and won’t push ourselves as hard to become better, learn more, work harder and become more dedicated.  Losing is not a BAD thing. This is not a problem of erectile dysfunction. We’ve all been losers at some point.  BUT, I would be likely to say that the loss fueled your desire to win even higher.  It’s human nature.  Nobody WANTS to lose.  Everybody WANTS to win.  It’s not always about your record, but it IS about teaching how to lose and teaching how to win.  You can still be teaching these things and have a winning record.  I totally get that it’s not all about your record or all about the scoreboard.  However, the lessons to be taught by having a conversation about winning and losing, and teaching kids the meaning of winning and losing, has a lot to be said.

Hate the feeling of losing more than you love the feeling of winning.

Competitiveness is going to be what drives players and drives a teamA team understanding that there is always a winner and always a loser is one of the most important, fundamental concepts to learn about sports at a young age; let’s not ignore it. It’s there.  It’s real.  Teach it at a young age so it’s not a surprise once they become older, when the wins and losses and at bats have more meaning behind them.  By teaching winning, you’re teaching fight, leadership, focus, hard work and team work.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

About author View all posts

Amanda Scarborough

Big 12 Freshman of the Year (2005)
Big 12 Player of the Year (2005)
Texas A&M Softball All American ('05 & '07)
Big 12 Pitcher of the Year (2007)
WCWS Appearances ('07 & '08)
Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee (2014)
ESPN Softball Analyst
The Packaged Deal co-founder

47 CommentsLeave a comment

  • @sportmomia Amanda…agree with you wholeheartedly. There’s a balance. Friday Night Tykes is a bit too extreme for the the age group, but the basic principles they’re trying to teach are sound. We can’t keep raising soft, coddled kids who have no idea what it means to gain the reward on the other side of lots of long, hard work.

    • I like how you said “gain the reward on the other side of lots of long, hard work.” Really, that’s what it’s all about!

  • Well said! By teaching kids that it doesn’t matter if they win or lose, we reinforce the idea that it doesn’t matter if you try hard or work hard or pull your weight on the team because “everyone is a winner.” But that doesn’t help them in life, because everyone isn’t a winner at the job interview or on the construction site or in the boardroom… You are teaching them that having a losing attitude and doing everything halfway is ok and that won’t help them in high school or college or life! Totally agree….

    • Gotta be able to push yourself and find ways to learn from failure!! That’s the way we grow and learn – every day!

  • Play to win! Period. No service to the team if your managing a team to just “have fun”. Its no fun to lose. Losing with honor is a must, and true, however losing becomes a habit, just like winning. That is why the top teams are always competing at the highest levels. Compete, compete, compete.

    • Learning to lose with honor is a big part, you’re definitely right about that!! The word “compete” is probably one of my favorites. Gotta have fun, but you’re right, it’s not fun to lose. Winning is FUN!

  • I agree 100%. I would like to add that children need to be praised when they are successful and encouraged when they are unsuccessful. I, too, was a softball player so I will use softball as an example. If my child’s softball team were to win a game, I would praise her not for just winning, but for her hard work, determination, and overall effort. At the same time, if my child’s team lost, I would ask her if she did her best and if she did everything she could to prepare. If the answer is yes, then I would tell her that I am proud of her and will work with her so she can beore successful the next time she competes. If the answer is no, then she taught herself an important lesson.

    • Yep you’re right!

      I always try to find the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives in my coaching. A lot of time losing comes from not controlling the controllable like the things you listed in your post – hard work, determination and overall effort. If you have a good grasp on the controllable in the game, especially in your preparation, then you have a much higher chance at success in life, not just winning 1 game.

  • Completely disagree. There is to much emphasis in this country about Winning is the only thing and if you do not win you are a loser. This is the attitude that drives young people to steal their moms gun and shoot elementary school kids. The reaction you are talking about came into place because parents were driving their kids into Win, Win, Win and it was really hurting the children. There needs to be a balance and teaching children how to succeed without focusing on loosing (you are a loser). We are a country that feels unless you are an NBA player or a Doctor or a Big earning businessman than you are a loser and that attitude needs to change

    • The opposite of a winner is a loser. There is always 1 in every competition- for a job, for a sports position, in a game.

      There are different ways to direct your energy after losing. You can take it and learn from it and learn to prepare more and work harder, or you can look at it in a negative way and get lost in your own individual sadness and not be motivated. Everyone has a choice with how they are going to take losing. It’s unavoidable. At some point we have all lost. But what makes the difference between people is how they handle that failure, no matter what it is they are failing at.

      I’m sorry that you feel that way, however, I definitely do not think that you have to be an NBA player or a Doctor to be a “winner.” A “winner” in my mind is someone who works hard for their successes and doesn’t let anything stand in their way. They control what they can control every day – and that is their attitude and a positive outlook on life no matter what has happened to them that makes them a winner. Every day we have a choice. And a lot of times our own attitude of ourselves reflects on what the world sees on us.

      It’s the will to win that should be taught, not if you lose you are a failure.

    • Your thought process is exactly what has caused our country to become weak and lagging behind in the math, science and manufacturing fields. By saying that kids are always winners, they don’t learn how to lose, how to get by the loss and working to get better. I also don’t think Amanda was implying that if you lose at something, that you are a loser. Yes you lost the event or that particular thing, but that doesn’t define you unless you allow it to define you. We need to teach the kids that losing is ok as long as you continue to work on moving forward and trying to do better the next time. That is why Amanda states that you have to learn to be a gracious winner, and a gracious loser.

      Your statement about the people stealing guns and shooting at the elementary schools holds no water.I grew up in an era that we didn’t get a trophy or ribbon for just participating. We didn’t get rewarded when we lost, I didn’t get blamed or yelled at either. I didn’t have to worry about going to school or the movies and getting shot or anything like that. Now when we as a society are into almost our 2nd generation of having no winners or losers, you have to worry about these people wanting to kill others. Why do you think that is? Could it be because they weren’t taught how to lose and rebound and continue to work hard to get better to be the very best they are capable of being and feeling good about that? I would venture to say that has a whole lot to do with it. There are few cases of these type of senseless killings that you are talking about that have kids that were athletes at some point. Most of these killings that you mentioned are done by kids that were loners that most likely didn’t learn how to deal with loss, how to move forward from it and be able to still find ways to win. This is a very big issue in our culture. Not everyone will be an athlete, and that is ok, but you still need to learn to deal with failure as you will experience at some point in life and if you can’t deal with it you end up with kids that go out and do these senseless acts of violence because they can’t cope. It is a shame. Life is filled with opportunities to win or lose and if you can’t face those head on you will continue to fail in life.

      I have coached my son’s baseball team for 15 years now and am working on year 16, it is a collegiate summer team. I have always taught the boys life lessons along the way, and I believe that I have absolutely done the right thing. The boys that have left the team and gone on to do other things have all come back to me at some point and thanked me for teaching them how to cope with life events. I have always been there for them, and I have taught them how to win and how to lose. I think that is where we fail many times as coaches / adults. We don’t teach kids how to win and lose. In many cases, if you lose you become a loser, that is not right. Yes you lost but there is a process of how to deal with that, that needs to be taught and worked through, and the same thing is true for winning. Few coaches do that but those that do have very well rounded successful kids.

      • We have become weak in manufacturing because other countries offered cheap labor and US companies flocked to make larger profits. We are still a very strong country in math and science, it is perhaps the arrogance of people like yourself that think other countries are incapable of catching and perhaps surpassing us. I would suggest you read up on your history before making foolish statements.

        I have coached and been a ref, and to hear parents yelling at their children to win, win , win at all costs is annoying at best and hear breaking at worst. I coached this kid who was a great talent but very un- coachable, a disruption and very negative. I had to suspend him for a few days so we could discuss where his head was at and how to have a positive team attitude. Parents, uncles went crazy, other coaches thought I was crazy “punish him some other way , but don’t kick him off the team, “he is the best player on the team, wait til after the big game and then suspend him”. I did suspend him and when he came back he had and still has an excellent attitude and is a real team player. Unfortunately this is the attitude I see all the time from parents-it is a shame.

        By the way no where in Amanda’s post does she say “you should be a gracious winner and loser” If she did say that I would agree with it!
        I do agree with your statement that people need to learn after a loss, be it sports or life. I believe however their should be a balance in life, everything is not one way or the other. There should be games for fun, and games for competition-your statement that for the last 20 years our county has forgotten about competition and is now “politically correct” is a gross exaggeration. Just because we do not have as sharp a divide in winning and losing does not mean we are a bunch of wimps

        I find if you take time out and think, use your brain, understand psychology, you will be a well rounded person.

    • Actually, Ed, it’s the sense of entitlement that is fostered when every kid gets a trophy for every little thing they do. When kids are taught that if they do the best, they win, and if not they lose, then they learn to lose graciously and go back and work harder to win next time. Working toward a goal gives a child purpose and helps build their self esteem a whole lot more than a bunch of empty platitudes. Nobody’s gonna give a kid a medal every time she shows up at work. She will only be recognized as an adult if she sets herself apart by the quality of her work.

  • As ABC used to say, sports is “The thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat.” Sports mirrors life, although the stakes aren’t as high. But try telling someone who just lost a championship game that it isn’t the end of the world. It surely feels like that to them. But they learn to deal with it and then when they are dealt a crushing blow in life (as we always are), they’re much better prepared to deal with it. Yes, in sports–and in life–sometimes you’re a loser. And that’s as it should be.

    • You remember that feeling of loss, and use it to fuel your next competition. Nobody likes to feel that way. It’s the feeling of losing after a big game we try to avoid because the feeling of winning feels so much better than the feeling of losing.

  • Great article and it is extremely true that a pitcher has a win/lose situation with every batter, this is where the mental toughness and the team support comes to play, and our Canadian girls are born tough.

  • I agree with you, but I understand what Ed was saying. There needs to be a desire to succeed and always be better. It’s essential to any job or career. I think Ed’s point isn’t that winning is not the ultimate but that people handle it poorly when they win. I coached 3 year old soccer and ran up against an opposing coach who was all about killing us. At 3 years old!! I think this where the social focus has come in the “everyone is a winner” attitude, despite the obvious. I was taught that if you win, do so graciously. Along with a society that is producing soft kids, we also have a society of winners who are plain assholes about it. If one wins, but is an ass about it, they are truly the loser. I love winning but I don’t do it in a way to belittle others. Perhaps the article could have spoken more to a winners attitude rather than the obvious.

    • With this article, I was not focusing on once you win or lose, what you do to your opposition. But I wanted to focus more on what YOU, yourself, do and how you handle the failure internally and move on from it. Is an athlete/team going to allow that loss to fuel them to fight even harder next time and learn from things that went wrong?

      To make it clear, I have never and will never think that it is right to rub a win in anyone’s face. I was never one to do this as an athlete or as a coach. I totally agree with you about not belittling others 110%. When you are a competitive athlete who worries more about competing with yourself and getting the very most out of your own capabilities, this should not be a problem.

      I wanted this article to focus on losing because there IS a right and a wrong way to handle it, but it’s more about yourself than about other people. We control how we handle things like our attitude, dedication, hard work and drive. It’s a much bigger issue in this world to be able to take losing rather than understanding how to take winning. Be upset about losing, but understand why you lost, learn from it, make yourself better from it, so that you don’t make the same mistakes again the next time, and you can grow. You learn a lot more from losing than you do from winning.

  • Very well said!!! This should really be a daily read for some. Maybe they would then realize that it is true. It’s not only about the winning it’s learning how to lose, learn from it and move on to the next game or next life lesson. It’s never fun to lose in a game, match, set or life, but it is all part of the game.

  • Great article! Since I was a little kid,I have always been told you have to learn to lose before you will learn to win. When you say ” hate the feeling of losing more then you like the feeling of winning”This really hits home. I pitched all through high school and at the college level. I’m sure you can agree as a competitor you remember the times you missed your spot or made a bad pitch that cost you the game more then you ever remember the times you throw great. This is what makes a person strive to be better wether its in life or on the field. Great article!

  • I do appreciate your putting out this post, it is always refreshing to hear someone with a positive attitude. However life is a bit more complicated than “try harder” “be so good they cant ignore you” or “losing is considered failing”, these are platitudes and clichés and certainly you are welcome to them but life goes a little deeper than that.

    Mature individuals learn that winning is great, but certainly there is nothing wrong with 3rd place. We agree to disagree and that is fine, that is what makes America great. By the way I am deeply saddened that the Olympics dropped women’s Softball and men’s baseball. I loved watching it even if our women did not win (which was not very often LOL)

    • I think life is as simple as we make it. 🙂 And we make it harder than it is sometimes. So I try, on purpose, to try to keep things simple, for when I complicate and analyze in my head, that’s when life becomes a mess. All I can speak and blog about are my own experiences and my view on what has helped me in sports and in life. I speak through that in my writings. Life lessons and philosophies do not come One Size Fits All,and I understand that, but maybe one size can fit most or maybe one size fits none. I can just attest to my own life lessons I have learned along the way, as simple as they may seem to some, it’s great to be reminded.

      I did not comment to the gracious winner and loser part of winning and losing because that could be an entire post in itself. What my main focus wanted to be from this post was what do you do after failure (i.e. in this post losing). When we understand that failing can be learning, we understand that we are truly growing every day, as we have failures all along the way.

      It IS really sad that softball is no longer in the Olympics! I, myself, looked forward to watching the Olympics every 4 years and dreamed of playing in it when I was growing up. It’s so awesome for younger player to be able to have that as a goal. Guess you can now sit in front of your tube and watch college softball, as it is coming up in the upcoming months! 🙂

  • Loved watching you pitch for Texas A&M. You and the team were always a winner to me win or lose.

  • Way to go, Amanda. I preach the same all the time. Off topic, my son will be an Aggie this fall! Gig ’em!

  • As a fifty year old, the trophies I earned were either as the result of being on a championship team (rare) or as the result of being one of the personal best at that particular sport (even more rare). So the two trophies I ever received were the result of working exceptionally hard and being lucky. Yep, lucky, because without a little luck the championship trophy I garnered would have never come about. For the batter who whiffed three times earlier in the game to get the winning hit in the bottom of the 9th with two outs in the championship game needed a bit of luck. I’m very fortunate that I was the one who had that little bit of luck that day!

  • I am an athlete in highschool and I play volleyball, basketball, and soccer, and I loved this post! I am definitely showing it to my coaches and teammates! Thanks so much!

    • Ah! Love to hear that!!! Good luck!!! Bet you are a great athlete with all those sports!

  • I have 2 softball girls 8 & 11. We have always taught them to take each loss as an opportunity to grow. We tell them as they get older, remember each loss and use it as a stepping stone to be come a better player, teammate, and ultimately a better person. Your message is spot on. Thank you, as I will be sharing with each girl.

  • How do you not doubt yourself before games or get nervous? I always prepare as much as I can but once I get to the game I get really nervous and start doubting myself and the work I put in.

    • Just have to power through it and start putting positive thoughts in your head at practice and at the game BEFORE the game actually starts. I always found the more I prepared and practiced, the better I felt about myself in a game -which helped to try to stay more positive. Always take it one pith at a time! Don’t try to win the whole game in the first inning!

    • Maggie, Try to find a way to relax and trust in yourself. You will play much better when you are loose and relaxed. That is in no way to suggest that you not put full effort or 100% desire and effort into your performance. I would ask you this question? What is the worst thing that will happen if you have a bad day or make a mistake? What is your desire from what you are doing? Is it to help your team win, is it to make a certain level, or what? Once you can answer these questions, you can start setting your goals properly and then you can work on your game plan to get there and meet your goals. This will help you prepare mentally as you prepare physically. It is important to prepare mentally, and it sounds like that is where your doubt comes in to your situation. Bottom line, trust yourself and what you have done to prepare. Go out and do your best that day and know that some days will be better than others, learn from both and work to have more good days than bad days. Even pro’s have bad days. One of the best fielding shortstops in the game, had a horrible day committing 3 errors in one game. He learned from it, didn’t dwell on it and went on to be in the nominations for a gold glove and came in 2nd place. So he was still among the best because he was able to put it behind him, take it for what it was and trust himself.

      Good luck, and enjoy what you are doing.

  • I loved the article and agree with just about every bit of it. I would change the title though to “sometimes you lose”. Just because you lost a competition doesn’t label you as a “loser” it just means you finished second that day and therefore need to train harder if you want to win next time.
    Learning to lose and rebounding from it to compete another day is exactly what kids (and some adults) need today.

    • Thanks for reading, Derek. It’s definitely a play on words for the word “loser”. There is the slang definition that is put out there in a social context, however, the real definition of loser is “a person or a thing that has lost something, especially a game or a contest.” So yeah…there will be times we are all losers!

      Totally agree with your last sentence about learning to lose and rebounding from it to compete the next day!

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