When You Lose, Don't Lose the Lesson

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"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

--Vince Lombardi


"If winning is the only thing that matters, then you'd do anything to win. You'd cheat. You'd sacrifice your marriage or your family to win. Relationships wouldn't matter. People wouldn't matter. Winning would be worth any price you had to pay. I don't believe that; after working with Vince Lombardi day after day for six years, I know he didn't believe it either. A more accurate reflection of his feelings would require a revision to that famous quote, to read 'Winning isn't everything, it's the effort put forth to win that matters.'"

--Tom Landry


I've seen it at all levels in all sports, the pressure to win. And yet if winning weren't important we wouldn't keep score. Even in T-ball where they usually don't keep score, most kids know which team won at the end of the game. It's a fact of life. Winning is a byproduct of competition. Whether it's in music, at school, on the job, or in athletics, competition is what makes us better.

In football, winning is a team goal. Each participant puts forth the effort to improve their individual skills to help the team achieve its goals. The coach teaches skills, challenges players to excel, and offers perspectives on winning and losing.

Preparing young people for winning and losing is maybe the single greatest lesson a young person can learn. It is far better to lose and learn than to quit. Quitting is habit-forming and contagious.

"Nothing in life, including football, is worthwhile unless you enjoy it and gain something from the experience. Sure, we're trying to win football games and we're not going to be satisfied with anything less than a 10-0 record, but I don't want it to ruin our lives if we lose. You can't tell kids that a football loss is a tragedy, because it's not. All I ask them to do is to give their best. If we win, great! If we lose, it's not the end of the world. There is another game on Saturday. I don't want my players crying. I want them to feel bad, but not ashamed. I'll never buy that stuff some coaches say that if a boy loses a game he is a loser for life. The coaches with attitude, that winning is the only thing, don't belong in football."

--Joe Paterno

A footnote on the subject of winning in football... In his book "Instant Replay", Jerry Kramer maintains that Vince Lombardi worked his players much harder in practice after a win than after a loss. It was Lombardi's philosophy that a loss was a better gauge of the "fight in the dog" than was a victory.


Thad Tumbleson, or "Coach T" as he is better known, runs a successful summer youth football camp in which the kids learn not only how to become better football players, but better people. Coach T has created a popular 10-set DVD series, "Coach T Tackles Football". The DVDs explore numerous drills, strategies, up-to-date techniques and approaches, safety tips, sports medicine and provides in-depth positional analysis. Visit his web site at www.coacht.tv for more information about his camps and DVD Series.

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