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Defeat teaches faithful athletes valuable lessons

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Defeat teaches faithful athletes valuable lessons
by Pat Macken

In competitive sports, there’s pretty much always a winner and a loser. (Soccer still likes ties). When you think about all the games played, in all the sports, at all the levels, a million people are losing every day.

Many perfectionist athletes do not realize that a 51 per cent winning record, statistically speaking, is not that bad, and 60 per cent means you are doing well.

Considering the fact that losing is such an inevitable part of our sports experience, it is vital that we gain some benefit from it if we want to last long in a sport.

I have a dear friend who is retiring from squash competition after decades of play and service. This former U.S. and Canadian national champion, when asked about competitive highlights of his career, mentioned a couple of significant matches that he lost.

He described learning so much about himself and his courage while playing against better opponents to the bitter end. He grew and built a career out of those losses.

Some of the more common steps to help you deal with defeat include:

• Don’t make excuses. Take full responsibility.

• Don’t blame your partner or teammates.

• Always find one positive in how you played.

• Always list at least one thing about your opponent that you admire and want to emulate.

• Set at least one goal to work on and improve upon within a week or two. This will help you get hungry, and want to get back into action soon.

As Catholics, however, we have an even better solution. We must bring Jesus into the tough moments as part of the healing process.

We need to bring our saviour into every single part of our life, 24/7, including losses in sports.

Begin with a prayer of thanksgiving after the loss; yes, give thanks! Thanks for the opportunity to compete and for good health. Pray for peace in your heart, and for determination and hard work moving forward.

A Catholic athlete can also offer up a loss to God as mortification for others. Find purpose in your losses.

I have lost many tennis matches in my career, but a 6-0, 6-0 loss a few years ago was a particularly tough pill to swallow. After a short time I found myself being thankful that this had been my worst suffering. I also felt God telling me that I needed more humility.

In a recent homily by Father Mark McGuckin that I was blessed to hear, he showed some parallels between the pain he felt after a devastating basketball loss in high school and the pain that Jesus’s disciples felt after his crucifixion.

Father Mark spoke of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and how they were wallowing in defeat after their hope for the Messiah was apparently crushed. Their loss was devastating and they wanted to quit and leave Jerusalem.

Ultimately, where did their consolation come from? Like all athletes after significant defeat, we are tempted to despair and maybe even quit, but as Father Mark asked us, “Who do we encounter in our losses? Who did the disciples encounter? We encounter a man who is walking with us. It’s Jesus.”

As men, women, boys, and girls of faith, we have all the regular tools to deal with a loss, but we also have a Lord who always gives us hope and enlivens our spirit to move forward and get back in the game, much like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

After defeat, you may see yourself as a loser and weak, but Jesus does not. He always loves you and wants you back in the game.

Say aspirations such as “Stay with me Lord” or “Come Holy Spirit.” Like our sense of victory in the resurrection of Jesus, we can have the greatest hope in life – including after a bad loss in sports – when we walk with Jesus.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 14:31  

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