In the US, we are currently getting a master class in “how not to lose.”
When I was young, my parents regularly said to me, “Don’t be a sore loser.” I was a serious tennis player between the age of 10 and 14. John McEnroe was my hero, so, not surprisingly, I had a temper on the court. I threw my racket, screamed a lot (mostly at myself), and moped around when I lost.
I also played soccer. For a few years, I was a goalie until one fateful game. I remember it being a big game – whatever our equivalent of a championship or playoff game was. I was a good goalie – quick, pretty fearless, with excellent hand-eye coordination. The game was a tie and went into a penalty kick shootout, which was a particularly cruel thing to do to a bunch of ten-year-olds. I can even remember the name of our team’s star (Scott), who missed his kick. I then missed the save on the next shot from the other team, and they won the game.
I walked off the field sobbing. I’d let my team down. If only I could have saved that goal. Why didn’t Scott make his shot? It was all my fault. I sucked.
My mom put her arm around me and said, “Don’t be a sore loser.” She hugged me. I still remember that.
When I play tennis, I still mutter to myself, but I no longer scream, throw my racket, or swear at the other player. I’ve won a lot in my life, but I’ve also lost many times. And, when I reflect on losing and tennis, I think of the two people who model losing and winning better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Following is an example from the 2017 Australian Open.
Nadal is exhausted from the tournament. And he lost. And yet, grace. Minute 1:45 – 2:00 of the video is delightful.
Winning gracefully is equally powerful. Following is Roger Federer from 2017. Minute 2:15 – 2:30 is beautiful.
This is how you lose. This is how you win. And then you get up the next day and try again.