Lesson 1 Teaching
how to lose
By CHIA HAN KEONG
WHAT separates great sports coaches from merely good ones?
pondered this question long and hard after I read a friend's Facebook note last
He wrote about how he has hated losing since young, and decided to shut himself
away from all kinds of confrontation, just so that he would not become a monster
of a man - throwing tantrums and smashing chessboards, among many other raging
reactions to losses.
Now, I'm not here to judge my pal's method of dealing with the darker aspects of
his personality. But his note got me thinking about sportsmen, especially those
who make a living out of their sport.
It is perhaps ironic, given that most of these professionals hate losing just as
much as my friend does, that they are in a business where they must lose, and
No sportsman can win every game he takes part in and, so, the bitter pill of
defeat is something to be swallowed time and time again.
Here's the crucial mantra, repeated by almost everyone in every sports
discipline, from Fandi Ahmad to Kobe Bryant to Tiger Woods: How a sportsman
deals with disappointment determines how successful he will be.
Some of you may recall an old Nike television commercial featuring Michael
Jordan, a sporting legend with a near-pathological desire to win, recounting the
number of times he missed a winning shot, failed to make a winning pass, and
lost a basketball game.
'I've failed so many times,' the six-time NBA champion intoned in the ad, 'and
that is why I succeed.'
But how does one make the jump to deal effectively with losses and thrive,
especially when losing is such a jarring emotion that contradicts our survival
Here's where great coaches can make a difference: Good ones teach sportsmen how
to win, but great ones teach them how to lose. A great coach like the Los
Angeles Lakers' Phil Jackson does not call a time-out whenever his team of adult
basketball professionals hit a rough patch.
By removing himself as a safety blanket, Jackson forces his players to confront
the spectre of defeat. If they fail, they get no recrimination from him - only
the chance to face failure again in another game. A great coach like Alex
Ferguson cajoles his Manchester United footballers - either through paternal
kindness or sheer terror - into making up for every rare loss with a winning
Most of all, a great coach cares less about results than the overall character
building of his charges. It is difficult to find such mentors, especially in
such a result-oriented business like pro sports.
That's why it is important for such coaches to be around young sportsmen, at a
time when every victory and defeat crucially shape their psyche.
Had my friend met such great coaches when he was younger, he may very well have
learnt to confront his demons in far different ways.
And I am certain he would have gained from losing.
Lesson 2 TBA
Lesson 3 TBA
Lesson 4 TBA
Lesson 5 TBA
Lesson 7 TBA
Lesson 8 TBA
Lesson 9 TBA
Lesson 10 TBA