When Winning Is Redefined

photo courtesy of Connor Coyne on Unsplash

In Florida, soccer is played all year; from club ball to high school season to club ball to summer camps.

For those faithful supporters of the beautiful game and those who play it, enthusiasm overflows for what happens on the pitch.

Sydney and Teagan just finished their high school season, both teams going further than they ever had before–all the way to regional finals. What makes it even more fun is their parents coach their high school teams, with the added bonus of their aunt and uncle assisting.

It’s been an interesting season. Both teams graduated excellent players last year, so making up the difference with younger players was a work in progress. Both teams rallied to the challenge, with encouragement from coaches and great leadership on the field.

Both had a winning season, exceeding expectations. Both teams made it through district games and won their first regional games.

Then came the regional finals.

When people have done better than anyone anticipated, it allows a mentality of continued success to develop. Winning becomes its own prize. Positive assumptions grow,

Nobody anticipated either team getting this far. Florida has several strong soccer programs that boast regional and state winners consistently.

That didn’t stop our scrappy teams.

The girls lost a close game, and their disappointment was massive. Responses varied from tears to stoicism, deep sadness to granite countenances. The guys also lost their game; their demeanor was one of toughness.

Both of the teams they played were better–better records, players who’d actually participated in club soccer together for years, and both had home-field advantage.

No excuses. We lost.

I was proud of both teams. They never quit, even when the losses appeared inevitable. What they lacked in skill they made up for in perseverance.

They then dealt with their disappointment.

Working hard and staying the course isn’t always encouraged today. It’s too easy to quit, to become discouraged with a project or job that isn’t turning out the way we’d hoped.

It’s become too easy to walk away from disappointment. To quit when we don’t win, making excuses for why things didn’t go our way.

The Apostle Paul had strong things to say about our attitudes toward problems.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us. . .” Romans 5:3-5a

It’s the losses and difficulties that actually grow us as people. The times when we’re tired or we’re pushed to be more than we think we can be. God is there to support us if we ask Him.

Winning isn’t an end in itself. Losing is as much a part of the process of growing us as people, of preparing us for life in all its iterations. Losing humbles us and allows us to examine all that we are with honesty. It opens us to help from the Lord as we more deeply recognize how much we need Him.

There is so much to win when we lose.

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