"Win with humility and lose with honor." - Joe Ehrmann

This weekend, our DU team (for which I am the volunteer assistant coach) lost our first game versus Ohio State. With all the hype that our team had coming into the season, it was a bit of an unexpected loss to lacrosse fans. But, we all knew that OSU has a great team this year, and it was even tough for us to beat them twice last year. So, it wasn't a huge surprise for us when we ended up in a battle with them. They came in with a great plan and kicked our butts in the second half. Unfortunately for us, we came up one goal short and came home from Florida with a 0-1 record.

Am I psyched about losing?
Not at all. It's never fun to lose, no matter how long you play or coach. Am I down about it? Nope! No reason to let a loss in a game get me down. It does not help matters at all and I have plenty of things in life like my family, friends, a job that I love and my faith to be thankful for. No win or loss can ever change those facets of my life.

This is where it's important to understand the lesson of true humility, which losses can teach us a lot about. Being humble isn't about just saying, "Aww shucks, I'm not really that good and my teammates really carried me today," after a win. Being humble is about realizing that no win makes us better than anyone else. We become humble when we understand the true aspects of life that are important for everyone's happiness. When we have those things in our life, we realize that everyone can have them. In this sense, humility allows us to see that we are all equals, especially when it comes to finding fulfillment and true success in life. So, it becomes less about having the bigger car, the bigger house, the nicer shoes or in this case, being on the better team (on that given day). When you fully understand that, then no loss makes you less than someone else.

If you feel "less than" or start to question your worth as a person after a loss, it's important to take a look at that and see what is going on there. What insecurities are you trying to cover up by being seen as a winner? Here's my theory (and this could just be for me, but I have a suspicion it is true for a lot of people in the athletic culture)…our feelings of insecurity and worthlessness are always within us and we do whatever we can to cover them up. Winning and being seen as a "winner" and "being the man" is an easy way for our ego to come in and make us feel good. When we lose though, it's not that we feel bad about the loss, per se. It's that our shameful feelings that we have always had are not being covered up by the rush of winning. So, we think that we are feeling bad about a loss, but it's actually the hurt and pain that we now have to feel as it not being covered up by a win!

So, it's actually a great opportunity for us to learn about ourselves emotionally when we lose.
If you feel bad or even depressed after a loss, then feel it. Usually when I lose and I feel real bad about it, then I will write about it and meditate on it. Also, I will just sit on my couch and allow myself to feel whatever emotion is coming up for me. When I do that, it gradually decreases over time and I do not feel that particular emotion as strongly the next time I lose a game.

When I used to lose in college, I used to be depressed for a week!
It took me until my mid-twenties or so to get some perspective and use the above practices to understand what was really happening for me. This past weekend, after we lost, I felt bad for about two hours. I had some thoughts coming up like, "I didn't do a good enough job coaching this week," and "I should have put that defense in," and "I shouldn't have told my player that because it messed him up on that next assignment." All this stuff comes from the perfectionist side of myself. This is the part of me that never thinks I have done a good enough job, no matter what. Once I realized that was the part of me that was coming up, I thought to myself, "You know what…you did your best last week as a coach and prepared your goalies and defense the best that you could. We came up short, but we can learn from some of our mistakes and do a better job next week. Now, let's think about what our team can do to get better this week." Quickly, I stopped beating myself up and feeling bad about a game.

So, losses are never super fun, but they are amazing opportunities for us to grow, not only athletically, but personally as well. They let us see what bad feelings and thoughts are lurking underneath the surface about ourselves when things are not going perfectly, as will happen many times throughout our lives. In life, sometimes you will get fired, sometimes you will lose some money, someone will break up with you and somethings will happen that you do not want to occur. If you base your worth as a person on outcomes, then you're in for a roller coaster ride! If you base your self worth on factors that you have more control over, like a spiritual practice, your own morals and values, giving to others and your overall outlook and perspective, then it's going to be a much more smooth ride. I've had both and I enjoy the smooth ride a lot more than the roller coaster!

Acting like you're humble when you win is easy!
Discovering what true humility is from losing is the hard part. But, it's just another one of the great lessons from athletics.