Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

One of the reasons I enjoy coaching teenagers is that they keep you off balance and say things that make you think.  Several weeks ago, a player said to me:

“Coach, I think you hate losing more than you love winning”.

My immediate reply was “That is absolutely right, I HATE losing”.  That was a very honest response.  But, I have been thinking about it ever since.

We want our players to play to win, to do the things required to win => like having QAB’s, throwing strikes, making routine plays, winning innings and playing with effort and focus.  These are all positive actions to achieve an outcome that they control.

Instead, if a player “plays not to lose”, this sacrifices all this positive energy and completely changes their approach=> they take too many fastball strikes, are not aggressive on the bases and in the field and play tentatively, afraid to make a mistake.

There is a prevalent coaching philosophy in HS/youth baseball coaching that you win most games by letting the other team beat themselves.  Unfortunately this is somewhat true, but is not very inspiring and gets less and less true as players move up the ranks. I would rather coach kids to WIN, not just survive.

The difference between the two approaches boils down to level of commitment and willingness to take risks and control your own destiny.  It reminds me of the Chicken and Pig fable below — the difference between being involved and being committed.  Commitment to winning is a more powerful and positive to achieve than “not losing”.

Maybe it starts at the top??

So, thanks to an 8th grader, I am re-evaluating my approach to coaching (and other things too).  My new goal is to LOVE WINNING more than I HATE LOSING.

Part of this is going to be redefining WINNING — it is not going to be the results of the scoreboard.  Fortunately, John Wooden’s definition of success provides a good guidepost for this:

“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. John Wooden.”

Chicken and Pig Fable

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”


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