Dignity in Defeat

It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Old Proverb

Our family has had the privilege of several enjoyable trips to the Texas High School State basketball tournament. Over the years, we have seen great athletes, great coaches and great games, but we have also witnessed something that is not so great - a few very poor losers.

Apparently the modern way of showing your grief after a big loss is to pull your jersey over your head and fall to the ground. We saw this a number of times in a distressingly high percentage of the games played. Now, to be fair to these players, one can understand the disappointment of losing a state championship game. Winning a state championship is probably the main goal and ultimate dream of every high school athlete, so coming so close and losing when the goal is so close at hand can be devastating. However, since there are over 1,200 public high schools in Texas, but only 6 divisions that can have a state champion, it seems prudent for coaches and parents to teach these young adults how to conduct themselves with dignity in defeat.

I witnessed such a lesson at one tournament in particular. It happened in one of the small school divisions when, oddly enough, one team won and the other team lost. The winners had no problem what-so-ever - it's easy to hold your head up when you win. But one young man on the losing team just could not contain his emotions. At the final buzzer, he immediately pulled his jersey over his head and went into full "loser" mode.

The entire crowd had witnessed this behavior from a number of "losers" already, so we were all used to this conduct. The young man's coach, however, was not. He went over when he saw what his player was doing, bent down, and said something. I suppose only the two of them will know exactly what was said, but the coach's comments had an instant effect. The player put his jersey back where it belonged and promptly walked to the other team and began shaking each one of their hands.

And, having learned the most valuable lesson of how to possess dignity in defeat, this young man walked off the court a winner.

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright. Proverbs 2:6-7, NIV