This is an excerpt from the book I am writing called, “Living Your Purposeful Life”
The will to win can manifest itself in many ways. I think the will to win can be both beneficial and detrimental. I believe the will to win can benefit you as long as you are focused on the process of winning and not winning itself. Let me give you a few examples.
When I was in high school, I joined the wrestling team my freshman year, only because the team was looking for wrestlers. I had never wrestled before, and the only thing I really knew about wrestling was professional wrestling, and back then, professional wrestling was not often on TV. Since I knew nothing, I got beat very often, but I kept at it and found support in the team. There were some great guys that I met on the team throughout the years. First as a follower of the leaders in front of me and later as the leader of the team.
At the end of every year, there was a big state wrestling tournament. In my weight division, my first year, I was ranked last, but won my first match before getting crushed by the top wrestler in the division. I was not deterred, because I stuck around and watched the other wrestlers from our team, especially one of the seniors, who ended up finishing third that year. It was at that moment, I decided that I would win the championship my senior year.
I kept working at my wrestling and improved each year, focusing on winning it all my senior year. When my senior year came around, I took every match as a chance to envision I was in the finals and wrestled like I was in the finals. This worked very well for me until the end of the year, when we wrestled a team that had an assistant on the team who was an old friend of mine, and I heard my friend whisper to his wrestler, “you can beat him.” In that match, I became so afraid of losing, that I wrestled terrible. I did not lose, I tied.
The next match, I wrestled the only wrestler who had pinned me the year before, and again, wrestled not to lose, especially not to get pinned, and tied again. After the match, when I was talking to the wrestler, he says to me, “aren’t you undefeated?” Ugh! He did not even remember me from the year before!
And to make matter worse, in our final tri-meet before the championship, I tied in the first match. I started losing my mind. What was going on? I went into the locker room to try and figure out what I was doing and my sister followed me in and said, “What the hell are you doing?” and that snapped me out of my funk. I won the next and final match before the championship.
In the championship, I was the number one ranked wrestler in my division and in my first match, I wrestled the last placed wrestler and finished him handily. The next few matches, I was on a role. I did not have a problem with any of the wrestlers and then it was the finals. I felt pretty good until just before my match. All my confidence that I had for the tournament seemed to disappear. I was where I was supposed to be, and it seemed like all the practice that I had done, did not seem to matter. I paced around in a corner talking to myself, trying to get myself ready and then it was time to go.
When I got on the mat, I did not have the confidence that I had earlier in the tournament or that year, but I know I was not trying not to lose. I do not remember most of the match, until the third period. We had just gone off the edge of the mat, I was on the bottom and found out the score was 3-3 with 1:05 left. As I set up to go, I felt a confidence wash over me that I had never felt before. The calmness that washed over me just said, “plenty of time.” One minute later, I was on top, 5-3 with 0:05 to go. I had won! It was amazing!
Years later, having a beer with my former coach, he would tell me, “I was a terrible wrestler, but I had the biggest balls he had ever seen.” That is what summarizes the good will to win!
When I play sports, I want to win and sometimes that prevents me from participating, especially when I do not have a chance to win, but I also want to be surrounded by people who want to win as well. To me, being surrounded by people who want to win is more important than winning. Yes, it is always nice to win, but to lose when everybody tried to win, is good enough.
I have played on several teams where we all had the will to win and we won more often than not and we have beaten teams that wanted to win more than have the will to win, and you could see them crumble under the pressure, the pressure of having one bad inning in baseball, the pressure of making a few mistakes. On a team that has a will to win, one bad inning is just a bad inning and you move on. When others make mistakes, you pick them up and know they will do better the next time.
I coached a lacrosse team that had the will to win. I will admit, I am not a great coach of lacrosse. I know how the game is played and I get figure out who can play with who, and let them play for the most part. I can tell who is having a good game and who is not and make adjustments. Going into the provincial championships, I had no idea how we would do and to my surprise, we won every game to get us into the finals and along the way, I just kept coaching like I had coached all year.
When the finals arrived, it was different. I started to want to win. I came up with a great speech to motivate the team with lots of quotes – I think the speech would have lasted 30 minutes. Thankfully, I did not use it.
At the end of the first period, the score was 7-9 for them and instead of getting them together to motivate them, I yelled at them. I yelled that they were not moving the ball around, they were standing around, and some other things. At the end of the second period, the score was the same, 7-9, and I yelled at them again. I am not proud to admit that I wanted to win more than wanting to encourage the will to win. If you can not figure it out, we lost 7-9.
I have no idea if we would have won had I had coached like I coached all year, but I am sure I would not feel the pain I feel today over losing, because I did not give the team the chance to win, I removed their will to win, and for that I am sorry.
Years later, I would be coaching my daughters team and I did learn my lesson. I coached them from the will to win perspective. I encouraged them, I tried to motivate them, and get them into the positions to win. Did we win? Sometimes, but we had some great surprises along the way which made it all worthwhile to me.
In one playoff, we were playing to second place team that had beat us up all year, but everything clicked for the team that game and we beat up on them. I could see their coach get tight and winning became more important to him instead of the will to win. We won that game and I thought that we had won the championship. That game was worth the whole season.
The following year, we had moved up a division and struggled all year. We got to the playoffs and we were in a game where if we win, we move on, and if we lose, we are done for the year. In that game, we played great. The game went back and forth all game. The girls all had the will to win at the same time. We ended up losing in the bottom of the last inning. It was too bad that we lost, but it was a great way to end the season.
So, winning is great, but you can not always win, There is only one winner. If winning is more important than playing the game, then one thing can prevent you from winning. If you have the will to win, then it is going to take more than one thing to prevent you from winning. Look around you, do you just want to win, or do you have the will to win!