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Issue 281 - How To Handle A Loss

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 6 Issue 281
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



On January 19, 1974 in South Bend, Indiana, John Wooden entered the locker room to talk to his team. They had just lost to Notre Dame 71 to 70, ending the UCLA team’s record setting 88 game win streak. Coach Wooden’s post-game speech was short and to the point; no drama:
We got licked. I don’t want to hear any whining or complaining. If you happen to be asked anything about the other team, say only good things. Now let’s get showered and get out of here.
Coach described his approach to handling winning and losing this way:
I never wanted excessive jubilation because we outscored somebody in a game, nor did I want excessive dejection if we were outscored. You’re not going to feel the same, that is true, but I want nothing excessive.
I want that peace within yourself, knowing that you tried your best; then we will not have anything excessive either way.
A player hanging his head after a loss and being dramatic is like a person waiting for applause because they have a tooth ache. I don’t agree with the idea somebody takes losing really hard because they are so competitive. The two things are unrelated. You get dejected over losing due to a lack of self-control. If you are competitive you go back to the gym and make 200 shots after a sub-par performance, you don’t whine or complain.
Coach liked to say: "A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it." You can apply the same attitude to a loss.
Coach Wooden did not dwell on the past, he put it this way:
Today is the only day that matters; it's the only day you can do anything about. Make each day your masterpiece.
The past will never change; anything that happened will never change. The future is yet to be; you’ve just got to concentrate on today and if you do that, the future will take care of itself.
In the poem If, Rudyard Kipling gives his son the following advice on handling a loss and making the transition from being a boy to manhood:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
You’ll be a Man, my son!
For John Wooden, his life was based on faith, family and friends. Winning and losing did not define him. John Wooden defined himself on how considerate he was of other people, not on whether his teams won or lost basketball games.
How do you define yourself?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise



Truth Never Dies

Truth never dies. The ages come and go.
The mountains wear away, the stars retire.
Destruction lays earth's mighty cities low;
And empires, states and dynasties expire;
But caught and handed onward by the wise,
Truth never dies.

Though unreceived and scoffed at through the years,
Though made the butt of ridicule and jest,
Though held aloft for mockery and jeers,
Denied by those of transient power possessed,
Insulted by the insolence of lies,
Truth never dies.

It answers not. It does not take offense,
But with a mighty silence bides its time.
As some great cliff that braves the elements
And lifts through all the storms its head sublime,
It ever stands, uplifted by the wise,
And never dies.

As rests the Sphinx amid Egyptian sands;
As looms on high the snowy peak and crest;
As firm and patient as Gibraltar stands,
So truth, unwearied, waits the era blest
When men shall turn to it with great surprise.
Truth never dies.







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