Is Success Only Found In The Win?

If the adage, “There are two types of people in this world – winners and losers,” is correct, than I guess success is winning. Seems simple enough, but is it really that simple?

All too often I think this is the mentality that is brought into the gym by players, parents, coaches, and fans in general. And while I can’t and won’t argue that winning isn’t part of competitive athletics, I will say that we shouldn’t worship at the feet of the almighty win. Winning is not and should not be the definitive measure of success.

“Winning is not and should not be the definitive measure of success.”

— Coach Matt Dennis

So what exactly am I getting at? What I am saying is that winning is part of it, but there is so much more to success than just winning and it all depends on whose eyes you’re looking through.


Let’s take a look at success through the eye’s of everyone else but you, maybe:

Fans – Was the popcorn good? Was the game competitive? Did my team win? If yes, than the fans thought the game was a success.

Referees – Did I call a fair game? Were my calls consistent? Did I understand the rules and apply them to what I saw? Did both teams have a fair shot at winning under the rules? If yes, than the referee did his job and the game was a success.

Players – Did I understand my role and do my part? Did I play? Were my stats what I expected them to be? Did the team win? If yes, than the player did his job and the game was a success.

Coaches – Was my team prepared? Did the team execute the game plan? Were players in a position to be successful? Were we competitive? Did we play as a team? Did we win? If yes, than the coach did his job and the game was a success.

Parents – Did my son have fun? Did my son get to play as much as I wanted to see him play? Were my sons stats where I thought they should be? Did we win? If yes, than the parent thought the game was a success.

Administration – Was the team well coached and respectful? Was the team competitive? Did the fans behave and enjoy themselves? Was the game injury free? Did we win? If yes, than the administration thought the game was a success.

As you can see, each group or person saw the game differently. And although winning was part of each groups view it isn’t the only view for anyone. Success is so much more than winning, it always has been and always will be. The view in which each of us views success needs to be considered when we pass judgment or blame when we think success didn’t happen. Maybe the team lost, and while we all are disappointed after a loss, does that make the journey, the practices, the games, the teamwork all a failure? After all this is the opposite of success.

I’ll leave you with a parting story.

While coaching in college my team was beat out of a conference championship one year and we were understandably disappointed. The following year we were knocked out of a the regional tournament by one point to a team we had beat twice during the regular season. Again, we were disappointed. And while I consoled my teams after each loss saying we had done our best and just came up a bit short, the other team cheered and celebrated success – a victory.

Later, first opponent who took a conference championship from us was found to have doctored grades to keep players eligible and the coach was let go. The second team who beat us by one point was found to have played ineligible players and their coach had resigned.

Did those teams and players truly find success? They did win the game. They also cheated. As the great coach John Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Their coaches robbed them of knowing what they could have done had the did the best they were capable of doing. The small victory hardly seems like a success in the bigger picture of life.

In regards to my players, they will always look at each of those games as a failure, even I do in a small way, because we ended up short on the scoreboard. I hope through my influence I was able to show them that victory through doing things the right way is better than victory that comes through the failure to do the right thing.

Don’t define success only in terms of wins. The players, coaches, parents, fans, administrators, and referees deserve more, they deserve better, no matter whose eyes of success we are looking through.

Similar Posts