How Long Could You Play on a Losing Team?

by Krantcents · 14 comments

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Winning and losing is part of life!  Recently, I watched Super Bowl XLVII and Baltimore Ravens won.  The city of Baltimore celebrated and the game goes into history.  College sports have bowl games too, but how about the teams that don’t make it into a bowl?  There are teams that never win!  Can you imagine playing for a losing team?  I will chronicle what one person is doing and what they learn from it.

I am not talking about a team that had a decent record and just didn’t make it into some bowl game.  I found a team that almost never wins!  When they do, it is on the local news.  If it were just some anonymous school, it would probably be easier on the players.  It happens to be Cal Tech which is one of the best engineering schools in the country.  Could you play on a perennial losing team?  Does it matter?  Win or lose, do you learn the same things from sports?

I love playing games! I also love winning and hate losing.  Recently, I read a Los Angeles Times article about Cal Tech’s baseball team losing their 108th game.  I am not talking about close games either.  Their teams are perennial losers!  The featured player plays basketball and baseball.  His record 11-108!  Can you imagine playing on a team that is likely to lose every time yhry are on the playing field?  College sports and sports in general celebrate wins and losses are soon forgotten.

It is part of sports to forget about losses so you can go on to that next win.  What if you are constantly losing?  How do you forget about the losses?  Many people would say there is much more to learn from losses versus wins.  What do you do when the wins are so far apart that there is no reinforcement for what you learned from your last loss?  Do the participants learn more from losing when it is almost a way of life?  Is there more to learn and celebrate from the occasional win?

One of the wins was breaking a 228 game losing streak for a ten (10) year period.  That was one of the reasons; it was on the local news.  Breaking a losing streak that was that long is certainly news, but what about the players who were on teams for years that lost.  Does this experience make better people, employees, entrepreneurs, engineers or scientists?  It is very unlikely that any of these players will go on to the NBA, NFL or MLB.

More importantly, they will be rocket scientists, engineers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, problem solvers and successful.  Do the games matter?  Does their win/loss record matter?  Of course not, but what have they learned?  There is a great deal that is learned from losing versus winning, but what if you are always losing?  These players certainly play for the love of the game because winning is probably not on the horizon.  I presume that every player has different reasons for playing, but what have they learned?

There are tremendous life lessons learned from winning and losing in sports!  What happens when you win so infrequently that losing goes on for years?  I am reminded of the famous quote, “winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” (Vince Lombardi).  We celebrate winners, but losers learn too.  In sports, we practice and play games.  The discipline of practicing and performing even if you lose has value.  If winning is so infrequent, it takes more effort, motivation and discipline to keep going under these circumstances.

Winning may no longer be the goal!  Perhaps conditioning, personal improvement or teamwork may become the goal.  Leadership and coaching may take over as goals versus winning.  I think every player contributes to the team in different ways and each takes away something different from participating.  I think being part of a sports team whether you win or lose, you will learn many skills that will help you in the future.  I have never been part of a group that did not want to win, but there is more to learn when you lose.

According to the LA Times article, “In sports, I (Mason Freedman) learn about losing.  I learn to make mistakes and get over them and move on.  I learn there is always another game.”  Maybe more of us should play on losing teams to learn this unique skill.  I think he learns considerably more from losing, determination, discipline, conditioning and physical improvement.  What they may not learn is how to win or celebrate.  Does it matter?  Is it more important to learn how to handle losses versus how to win?

Many of the graduates will go on to successful careers with the best companies, but not all will be number one in their industry.  They will use what they learned in sports to be part of a team and company working toward goals and accomplish a great deal in their career.  Winning in sports may be foreign to these players, but remember they have had success in their classes at a very prestigious university.  Sports has added to their experience and will impact their future.

Final Thoughts

I have always felt that fifty percent (50%) of your college education is outside the classroom.  It may be participating in sports, living in the dormitories, cafeterias, student government, fraternities/sororities and personal relationships.  Winning/losing, ups/downs and the rigor of academic pursuit are just some of the things you can learn in college.  All college students make decisions what they participate in college and they all learn from these experiences.  Are these experiences with a losing team make these players better for the experience?  I think so!   What do you think?  Let me know in the comments. Winning and losing is part of life!

Photo by:  Monica’s Dad

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{ 14 comments }

My Financial Independence Journey February 21, 2013 at 2:44 am

I’m going to wax cynical here for a moment.

College sports aren’t about winning or losing. It’s a business. So long as the team, particularly football teams, bring in money who cares if they win or lose?

And who said being a perennial loser is a bad thing? It’s far too early in the morning for me to find the article, but I remember reading somewhere that the Cubs basically turned losing into a business model. They make more money being the worst team than they would being a mediocre but bad team.

Krantcents February 21, 2013 at 6:56 am

I think professional sports is different because fans are loyal. I doubt if Cal Tech sports is a money maker. I think the rest of the university supports the sports program.

HappyFund February 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

Losing definitely builds character and keeps us grounded. It reminds us to keep focused even when we’re winning because the threat of losing is just around the corner. Like you said, there’s a lot to be gained from being in a team even if they are perennial losers. On the flip side, constantly losing is demoralizing. If the team can’t make any improvements (winning happens to be the easiest metric), then it’s a bad organization.

Krantcents February 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Sometimes you do not have a choice. What do you do if you never won? In the example I use, the team lost208 games straight over a 10 year period.

HappyFund February 22, 2013 at 5:38 am

Thankfully there’s more to life than just sports for those guys in the future and present. Same goes for us. If I’m playing video games and I keep on losing, that’s ok because I still got something out of it (killed time, exercised my hand-eye coordination, etc.) AND I have other opportunities to create wins for myself like. We lost another game today? Well, I just aced my midterms, had some good laughs with a buddy, told my mama I love her, etc. Many more wins versus one loss that day. It was a good day.

Krantcents February 22, 2013 at 6:51 am

I like your attitude! I think they may learn more though from participating in sports although they may lose.

Sarah Park February 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

For some, playing sports isn’t about winning or losing, but rather on how you tried your best and enjoyed the game as well. But let’s face it, it still feels different to win a game and receive recognition.

Krantcents February 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I think the goal is always to win, although you do learn a l ot from just playing the game. I just cannot imagine what it is like to never win or lose for 10 years. It certainly has to affect the participants differently.

Barbara Friedberg February 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Krantc-I hate to lose, but lose a lot. I always say to myself that it’s making me stronger. I force myself to try again and pick up the pieces and move on FAST!! But winning is definitely better.

Krantcents February 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm

We call it winning, however it can be progress, accomplishment or achievement. I need a positive outcome either personally or as a team just to keep me going. It is good that these players have success in their academic achievements otherwise I think it could be difficult. There other skills learned in losing, but I think it is hard earned.

Rob @FinancialSprout February 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Winning is great, but loosing can give us humility and things that winning do the opposite for. Then again a loosing streak can come from bad coaching, or just bad morale. Our school always lost in football, not because we were bad, but because there was no team spirit. When we got a new coach and some school spirit flowing, we started to beat teams that we hadn’t beaten for 20 years.

Krantcents February 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

It may be coaching or it might be the talent pool. How many athletes are scholars too. Remember, Cal Tech is a very elite school similar to MIT.

Untemplater February 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I don’t watch much football, but oh was I so sad when the 49ers lost the SuperBowl. It’d be hard playing for a team that always loses, but oh how sweet the first victory would be! I’d much rather play on a team with good people who really try every single game vs be on a team that always wins but has players that are always cocky and take things for granted.

Krantcents February 27, 2013 at 6:55 am

I agree there are other attributes of being on a team that are important, winning is part of it too. If you worked for a company that was failing for years, you would still learn something, but never how to win or succeed!

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