If you are a sports fan, you will have been enjoying some spectacular competition this summer – from Wimbledon to the Euros, interspersed with cricket and Formula 1 and followed by the gold rush that was the Olympics. I, for one, was hooked.
But it got me thinking about winning and losing. The British mentality appears to applaud the effort more than the outcome, the journey rather than the destination. We love to support the underdog and believe taking part is the most important thing. But is this a healthy attitude?
I was lucky enough to represent University College Birmingham in a national cookery competition and won through to the finals only to come runner up. I received lots of congratulations which was kind, but that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. As Dennis Anderson said: Runner-up means first loser, and who wants to be a loser?
Losing IS good for the soul however. It is humbling but also motivational because you will do anything to avoid being in that position again. Ask the England football team or the World Cup rugby team or Richard III. Did he think it was ok to lose at the Battle of Bosworth and end up buried under a car park? I don’t think so. History proves the point further that losing stinks because winners get to re-write history on their own terms and shape their legacy. Losers rarely get that chance.
So back to SW19. Players walking out on centre court are reminded by Kipling’s immortal words that they should treat Triumph and Disaster (winning and losing) just the same. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to win, it just means you should be generous in victory and defeat. And you can’t argue with that.
However I prefer the sentiments of the closing lines – that if you have done the very best you can, then you are a winner.
If you can fill the unforgiving minuteRudyard Kipling, 1895
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it
Fast forward 100 years or so and to a more contemporary voice, courtesy of 40 Inspiring Quotes from Olympic Athletes by Kyle Eng. I will leave you with words of wisdom from Bonnie Blair, the American speed skater and five-time Olympic gold medallist who said: “Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before” (40 Inspiring Quotes from Olympic Athletes by Kyle Eng).
Now that is something we can all aspire to.