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We Did Not Win Very Often

By Mike Szvetitz – Richmond Times Dispatch[/fusion_title][fusion_text]I’m a competitive person. I hate to lose. We’ve discussed this.

I hated to lose as a player. After a loss, I’d sulk for days. Ask anyone who knows me.

Now, I hate to lose as a coach. Yes, even if it’s coaching U-13 girls soccer.

I know, I know. Winning isn’t everything. Trust me; we didn’t win very often this year. And, you’re right. Still, it doesn’t stop the competitive juices from flowing and my voice from rising once the ball is in play. If they keep score, I want to win. Period.
But coaching my daughters in various sports — from soccer to basketball to softball — I always seem to learn more than they do. (Maybe it’s because I’m not a very good coach.)

Winning is great, but it pales in comparison to effort. I got to witness firsthand a team full of 11-13-year-old young ladies embody that philosophy. No, we didn’t win every game. We didn’t even win half of them. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying. And that’s what matters. I was reminded of that again this fall.

Effort — trying your best — is better than any victory or championship. I know, it’s corny and a cliché. I know, it’s participation trophies and orange slices.

But you know what? That’s OK. Actually, it’s better than OK. It’s fundamental and foundational. Think about it. At that age, should we be expecting our children to win at all costs? Or should we want them to play hard — striving to win — but with a healthy understanding that it’s more about what they leave on the field than what they take off it?

There’s nothing better than seeing a player go all out in pursuit of something and, even if they don’t get it all, reaping the satisfaction of knowing they held nothing back. Yes, even in youth sports.

Especially in youth sports.

The lesson — the point — should be the same: Doing your best is the ultimate goal. And usually, by doing that, victories follow. Hard work begets success. No question. But it starts with effort and desire.

You can coach how to kick and pass. You can’t coach hustle. You have to inspire it. And we, as coaches and parents, must inspire our children.

All we should expect is the best out of our children. Not what we want them to be or our expectations for how they should play or act. We can’t project our desires and goals onto them. They’re facing enough pressure without us adding more.

All we can ask for — and expect — is their best. And we need to teach them how to give that. Not how to win. That’ll come. It can’t be about how many goals they score or how many wins they rack up.

It needs to be about hustle and heart. About encouragement. About life. After-school special time: We’re not going to win everything all the time. Life isn’t that way. We can’t control everything. But we can control how much we try.

We can control how much we run — or walk. We can control how much we fight — or flight. We can control how much we act — or watch.

That’s how we need to measure success. That’s what we should be coaching. That’s what my team taught me.

By Mike Szvetitz – Richmond Times Dispatch

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