I find that some coaches, in an attempt to protect their athletes from disappointments, tell them that sports is not about winning or losing. I agree with the sentiment but not for the protection from emotional disappointments but for the protection of attention while playing.
Today’s athletes say things like, “I’m not happy playing any more” when they bump into the hard moments during a season. That’s one of the results that coaches try to steer them away from. But without the heavy emotional attachment to a loss how does an athlete tap into the deep emotion that will give them what it takes to overcome and become great?
Are we truly afraid of leading our athletes towards and through these moments?
The American Author, Walter Wangerin Jr., framed this emotional dilemma well by saying,
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope — and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us.”
When elite champions say that they love their sport, I believe very deeply that they are talking about what they got from being committed through the pain of loss.
Are we trying to lead our athletes to happiness or are we resolutely leading them through hardships to greatness?