Learning from Losing

America is enamored of winners and winning.  "In this country, "loser" is one of the worst epithets you can hurl at someone.  And yet, losing is part of life, and so it's healthy to learn how to lose, to learn how to be gracious in defeat, and to learn how to learn from a loss.

And so I was so impressed with legendary UCONN women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma's response to their first loss in 2 1/2 years two days ago, a buzzer beater in the Final Four to plucky Mississippi State.  Actually, it was both his immediate response, right after the shot that ended UCONN's 111-game winning streak, as well as his more gathered response to reporters afterwards.

His immediate response is telling: he smiled.  He acknowledged his bench.  And then he went to congratulate his opposing coach.  The thing about sports is that things can turn in an instant, leaving us no time to prepare or script a response.  Coach Auriemma's gut reaction was not to pout or rant or blame.  It was one of joy and respect.

As for what he wanted to convey after he'd had a moment to think about, here's what he said to reporters afterwards: “They’ve sent a lot of kids to the locker room over the years feeling the way they’re feeling right now.  Now they’re part of what a normal college experience is. I reminded them that it’s not normal, what we’ve been doing. This doesn’t happen in real life. What they’re experiencing now, that’s real life. What we do going forward will probably be more important than anything that they did this year.”

It turns out that, up until Friday, there actually was a group of people who didn't know what it was like to lose and so hadn't had a chance to see how they would respond.  But then the unthinkable happened - UCONN lost - and Coach Auriemma was ready to remind us of what a great opportunity it presented for him and his team.  Much respect.
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