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The Winning Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing, Myth!
This famous quote has followed me throughout my years of coaching, and I suspect I’m not alone. In case you are reading this and have no idea where this quote came from, let me give you a little background. The saying “Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing” has been attributed for more than 45 years to the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, the man for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named; the great Vince Lombardi. News flash: he never said it; what he said is “winning isn’t everything – but wanting to win is.” The misquote comes from a Hollywood production starring John Wayne and Donna Reed titled Trouble Along the Way (Warner Brothers 1953) that was filmed in black and white and was a story in which Wayne plays a coach and a parent of only with a girl. at a private Catholic college and Donna Reed a social worker concerned about the child. In the movie, a game is being played while Donna Reed and the little girl are in the stands watching a scene. The scene shifts between shots of Duke walking along the sideline barking plays and cheering on his team, then to some priests waving school colors, and finally to Donna Reed and the little girl who appears to be about 10-12 years old . Old. Donna Reed is commenting to the girl about how she hopes the boys are enjoying the game and giving it their all or something, when the little girl responds with the line…”well you know what daddy (so-and-so) always says… “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This line came from a Hollywood production from the mouth of a 10-year-old fictional character. Several ways this line was attributed to Vince Lombardi (some say because of his affiliation religious with the Catholic Church) and he spent the rest of his life until his last days trying to right that wrong with sports commentators and writers.
I suspect like many others, that this type of thinking, that winning is the only thing, has dominated many coaches and parents in the way they view sports competition and when our kids, our school team, or we are not winning in every race. then there must be something wrong. Is it possible that something else is being gained that neither I the parent nor I the coach can understand at this moment in my moment of temporary stasis? It is the notion of winning all the time that is so ingrained in our society that we do all kinds of things, including ignoring our higher sense of self, to achieve it. Sometimes, we are willing to do “whatever it takes” even if it means not doing the right thing. Still confused? Of course you are because unfortunately, once we get rid of the “winning is everything” mindset, we are forced to look elsewhere for the true purpose of these races. In hindsight, the answer I’ve discovered is not in my head. It really stands in the heart with a capital H, and I’ll get back to that in a minute.
If you look at winning and losing as a whole, the fact of the matter is that every time you step on a field your chances are 50/50. This is a simple truth, the world as we can perceive it is made up of a set of opposites, hot versus cold, up versus down, gain versus loss, etc. everything in creation is a world of duality. In fact, you can’t experience one without the other. Imagine living with only daylight? Only darkness? One compliments the other. Without sorrow, this is not joy. Without an opponent, we cannot play the game. So how do we act then in this world of duality? Furthermore, where do we put our attention in order to succeed rather than fail? Furthermore, more to the point, how do we participate in competitive sports? The answer lies in our higher sense of self. There is a larger part of us that knows how to take all this duality and see it for what it is and what it is not. We are much more than just winners or losers in this game! We are, in fact, the creators of our own destinies. And depending on how we notice and observe the workings of our thoughts and the feelings they create, we can see the good in both victory and defeat. We can experience the ups and downs of winning and losing, and not forget our true selves. This is not a new concept, Eastern forms of competition have taught this for thousands of years; they even refer to their sports as “arts” as in martial arts. The goals of which are not the annihilation or destruction of opponents, but honoring, respecting and loving them. The meaning is that without an opponent the artist has no way to demonstrate the skills he has mastered. The competition is based on the fact that both opponents show their best, giving 100% and enjoying the opportunity to compete. It is not in winning or losing, but in competition that the athlete/artist is able to demonstrate his level of skill. Vince Lombardi’s correction of the famous misstatement “Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to win is.” There is a very subtle but powerful difference from winning is the only thing. This difference lies in the power of our attention and intention. Why participate in an activity if you don’t do it to the best of your ability? Our aim should always be to do our best to win or succeed, however if on a given day we don’t get the result we would prefer, we shouldn’t take it personally. We give it our best, learn from our mistakes and just get better as we grow. I have a personal motto that goes like this: “Make it personal; don’t take it personal.” What I mean by this is that I want to do things in the best possible way, I want to make it my personal duty to give my best, while at the same time, I remember that whether I succeed or fail it’s not a true reflection of who I really am, it’s just the result of my best efforts at the time.
I can think of several times in my career as a coach and in my career as a parent when my son and I both learned lessons during his days as a flag football player. One season, he was traded to a team that couldn’t win a game. He complained on our rides home and at one point told me he didn’t want to play anymore. I understood his pain, having been there as a coach and player myself, but I also knew there would be value in going ahead and following through with what he had committed to doing. After much discussion and persuasion on my part, he agreed to finish the season and just give his best no matter what the score was in each game. His team never won a game in the regular season, but lo and behold, a minor miracle happened. When it came time for the playoffs, his team was able to be successful in the two most important games of the year. This is fair; won the semi-final and championship games. I took the opportunity to tell my son that if he quit, he would have missed out on being a champion. We also discussed how you never know how things might turn out if you keep your promises and your word and just give it your best shot.
Earlier I mentioned a Hollywood movie that produced a very dangerous and unrealistic concept. Hollywood has also produced some very amazing and wonderful stories to inspire us too. I recently watched “Friday Night Lights” another movie about football. It’s about the highly competitive game of Texas high school football. The best part was the scene in the locker room at halftime of the “big game” when coach Gary Gaines starts talking about “Being Perfect,” the team’s context for the season. He starts by telling the players to just forget about what’s on the scoreboard, forget about the win and just get back on the court to give their best, give everything for each other and do it with love in their hearts. , and a sense of joy to play the game. He tells them how much he loves each of them and models for them what he hopes they’ve learned…If they play the game to the best of their ability and for all the right reasons, the bottom line isn’t their reward. ; the feeling they leave with will be. We are all looking for it, we find the answer in our Heart with a capital H. this real answer. In the game of football or the game of life, if we play our best, giving our best and loving what we do, there will only be winners and champions, no matter what the scoreboard says. Playing the game for all the right reasons is key.
Finding and understanding the right reasons to compete was and is the biggest challenge I face every day, regardless of the assignment. I live in this world of duality and by nature; I prefer only half of what constitutes my perception of reality. I just want to win, I just want happiness, etc. The problem is that the more I get attached to what I love, the more I get attached to their opposites. Reality is a double-edged sword. The answer to this conundrum is not to be attached, but to play the game from your heart and not your head. You see, it is your head and your ego that sees and experiences duality and it is your head that creates preferences based on all the information it has gathered over a lifetime of living in this world of opposites. It is your head that will take victory and defeat personally; your heart on the other hand will just go with the flow feeling the joy and love of just playing the game. It’s love that gets you back in the game time and time again – whether you’re winning or losing. In other words, love isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Profit is a happy byproduct.
A few years ago, when I was an assistant coach at the high school level; I was listening to our coach talking to the players at halftime of a college basketball game. He told them that to be winners they have to work hard, play smart, have fun and do it together. I thought that was very good advice. And as I was listening to him talk about these ideas, it dawned on me that before anyone would want to commit to all the hard work it takes to win, something else would also have to be present. The reason why we become real winners and champions in sports and in life is mainly because – in addition to committing to hard work, smart play, fun, etc. – we must really love what we are doing.
If we love what we’re doing, it’s much easier to put in the work, pick up the slack, and show up to play the game over and over again. As it turns out, when you examine the mindsets and hearts of true champions (whether in sports or in life), what you see and hear from them is how much they love it. Whatever “it” is to them. All great champions have this as a basis for participating in their chosen endeavors. All great men have learned to play the game from the heart and simply use their head as a compass—a tool to navigate their way to success. This is the most valuable lesson that sports and competition have taught me. This is the most valuable lesson we can give our young athletes. “Winning isn’t everything – loving what you do means everything.”
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