How would you define winning? Losing? And how about the difference between them, how would you describe that? Sure, there is the obvious answer to all of these; winning is scoring more than the opponent, and losing is defeat. But is that really the only difference between them? No. There is much more to winning and losing than what the scoreboard says. Winning and losing is not about what happens on the field, on the track, or on the ice. Winning and losing is about what happens inside of an athlete.
Winning is a mindset, and so is losing. Teams that win many games are confident that they can win. They approach the game with the mindset that they can and should win. Although most would never admit it, teams that win frequently go into games knowing they will win that game. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not, in fact it’s the opposite. Winning teams carry a mindset that allows them to win. Prior to and throughout the entire competition winning teams are confident in their abilities. They are confident that if they go out there, play their best, and execute their game plan they will win the game. The confidence a winning team gains fuels their drive to win more, and winning more adds to their confidence. It could almost be said the scoreboard is irrelevant to a winning team. It doesn’t matter what the score is during the game because they know that at the end they will have come away with a win. All because they carry a winning mindset.
Losing is the same way, only opposite. A losing team carries a losing mindset. They are used to losing and accept the fact that they will lose the game. Losing teams approach every game with a conflicted mindset often saying “we can beat this team,” or “if we go out there and play our best we can win this game.” Although these may seem like positive statements, they carry much doubt. The fact that losing teams talk about winning shows that they are conflicted on whether it’s a possibility. Winning teams will say, “let’s do this,” and “let’s go get them.” Winning teams do not need to mention winning because they are already sure that they will win. The losing mindset carries that doubt, and the doubt eats away at a competitive player’s spirit. It is not uncommon to see a losing team give up in the later parts of a competition if they are down. Just like the winning mindset, the losing mindset feeds off itself. Losing teams continue to lose and their confidence and competitive spirit goes along with it. The more games they lose, the more fight they lose.
No athlete wants to be part of a losing team, but not every athlete is lucky enough to be able to choose which jersey they will pull over their heads on game day. Many athletes are stuck in school district boundaries dictating whom they will play for. Not everyone has the option of enrolling in a private school or boarding school because they want to play for a winning team. Some must accept the fact that they have to make the best out of what they have. However, this is not a bad thing. To some, a losing team provides an extra advantage over a winning team.
The advantage? Motivation.
Losing teams lose games. As they lose games, players become frustrated. No athlete likes to lose, they are competitive, that’s why they are athletes. To some, they adopt the losing mindset and spiral off to accept that they will lose. To others, they can use losing as a motivational tool. The athletes that play at the highest levels are the ones who are extremely competitive. They are the ones who might have played on a losing team and drew motivation from that experience. My guess is that most of them have played on a losing team at one point in their life. Competitive athletes on a losing team hate the fact that they are losing. They do not adopt the losing mindset. Instead, they take losing as a personal manner to change their game. They feel that by investing countless hours of practice to better their game they can bring their team out of its losing ways. In a sense, they feel as though they can “will” their team to the winner’s column. Through this external motivation, these athletes become some of our most elite athletes. These athletes practice and practice, honing their skills and improving their fitness, hoping to get a win for their team. Ultimately, this results in a much better player.
The same cannot be said for athletes on a winning team. When a team is winning, everything is going right in the world. All players are enjoying the season and everyone is contributing to the team’s success. The external motivation to improve is not there because they are already winning. A common mindset of a winning team is “we are winning, why do we need to improve?” Granted, this is much more pronounced in younger athletes than older more elite athletes. The idea is the same though, when things are going well, why change them. Winning teams with this mindset will often times find themselves on the losing end of games as the season wears on. Many times winning teams with this mindset will become losing teams. They become losing teams because they became complacent and stopped improving. Other winning teams will have an opposite mindset of “we are winning, but we are not satisfied.” It is these winning teams that will continue to thrive and win games. They do not become complacent with their success. Rather, they choose to not be satisfied with their performances, and always find a way to improve. These are the teams that truly go on to achieve great things.
This topic is very interesting because there are multiple pieces at work. There are pros and cons that accompany being on a winning or losing team. The fact of the matter is not enough athletes find the motivation playing with a losing team, especially those who have been part of one throughout their entire life. However, place an athlete who is used to being part of a winning team, onto a losing team, and more often than not, that athlete will turn out for the better. The thing about athletes who are used to winning is they hate losing. They are not very accustomed to what losing feels like, and they do not like it. Winning athletes on losing teams will do everything in their power to try to win again. They are the ones who spend an hour before school and two hours after school working on their skills because they want so badly to feel the joy of winning again. They are the athletes who will go on to play their sport at more elite levels because they are the motivated ones. They are not necessarily the athletes who were born with an immense competitive spirit, but they are the athletes who learned the competitive spirit, and fought for their talents. In the long run, these are the athletes we all want on our team. A highly motivated, hard working individual that will give everything they have to the team.