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Friday, 11 May 2012

Coping with disappointment


The thing with sports is – there is always a loser.  That’s part of the reason that I love it so….  Sure, there is a winner aswell – and life is better with a win – but losing is part of what makes sport great.  The knowledge that if you don’t win – then you lose……  The thought of wanting NOT to lose spurring you on just as much as wanting to win…  I even know folk who would rather their opponent lost that they win….  Losing – and the fear of it is a powerful driver…

It’s so complete – YOU LOST!!  It does not happen so much in other walks of life….  IN business – everyone can win, no one has to lose (although there are plenty of losers across the business spectrum for sure), in arts – it’s more about opinion – someone’s winner is someone’s else loser – there is no certainty that YOU LOST!!!

And given that there are always more losers than winners in sports – dealing with the disappointment of losing is one of the key lessons to learn in sports management.

I have just returned to Oman (and its 24/7 forty degree heat) after a 10 day whirlwind trip round UK/Italy meeting some great sports set ups – and furthering my own education.  Squeezed into the trip were two games of sport that were really important to me….  Oman vs Senegal in final Olympic qualifier for London 2012, and Edinburgh Rugby taking on Ulster in their first ever Heineken Cup semi final.

Given the title of this blog – I am pretty sure you can guess the result of both these games – yep – we lost – but the pain was not a tough one to deal with – because I could see the positives in the defeat (“drifting into post match interview mode now Gary”), because I could see the achievement in reaching this stage was beyond expectation for both teams this term, and because the future appeared to be a lot brighter for both teams ‘despite’ the loss.

I think winning in sport is over-rated.  Certainly winning “right now”.  Failure is often seen as the inability to win – yet, given that only win team can ever truly win (in each field / competition) – what are the rest of us taking part for.  Winning for me is the long term, the building, the growth, the delivering value to the team, the future, the community, your staff, your fans, yourself.  Losing is failing to deliver on these – NOT scoring less goals that your opponent on the day in question….

For sure – some losses  are super tough to take – when the expectation is such that you assume a victory, when the opponent is one that you don’t like (and emotions take hold), when the spoils of victory are so tantalizingly good and close – yes losses hurt (often more than winning is fun).  You learn a lot from your losses (I am not certain that you learn more than when you win) – and its is coping with these defeats, learning from them, planning how to improve, and delivering on those lessons that go into producing world class performance on a consistent basis.

So – did I want to lose??? – NO.  Was I happy that we lost??  NO. 
Are we better teams because of the loss??  YES… (PS – we would have been even better had we won!)

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