A View From the Golden Gopher: Mastering the Art of Defeat

Last week I was watching the University of Minnesota hockey team as they took on Union College in the NCAA National Championship game. The Gophers came into the game as the favorite, ranking as the number one overall seed.

As the final seconds of the game ticked away, every fan in that arena knew that it wouldn’t be the number one seed that came out victorious. The Gophers dropped the final game of the season, and Union won its first ever National Hockey Championship. Finishing the season with a 28-7-6 overall record, the Gophers likely learned more from their defeats rather than their triumphs.

While the media and fans dwell on the victories, athletes focus on learning from the losses they experienced. Much like the Minnesota hockey program learned more from the seven losses they had than the 28 wins, I have found that I make more out of my losses in life than my victories. Losses to me are just chances to improve.

When I am experiencing individual success or my team is on a hot streak, it is difficult to see anything except what is going right. Until I realize something in my game isn’t working, I do not go about fixing it. Defeat highlights even the slightest flaws I never would have known existed while winning.

As many competitive athletes do, I hate to lose more than I like to win. While I know I have a long way to go when it comes to handling defeat, I quickly came to the realization that I have to accept the fact that defeat is imminent in sports.

As the younger sister of a successful collegiate athlete, I have been given many wise words of advice of not only how to win, but how to lose. Sammi always says to me, “If you let the little defeats get to you, you’ll never win the big ones.”

She often reminds me that in a single game, there are many defeats. As athletes, we experience mini battles throughout the game that we can learn from and bounce back from. That is why I love athletics. There is always another opportunity to pick myself up and make a great play for my team.

Baseball experts say that if a player gets a hit three out of every 10 times, they’re doing something right. If I cried every time I struck out or popped up to the shortstop, there would be a lot of tears on that softball field. As an athlete, I have learned how to handle defeat. Although things don’t always go the way I would like them to, every defeat gives me another opportunity to overcome obstacles and reach the goals I have set for myself.