Winning, is it an attitude?

This month’s article is on winning. Is winning something that is purely about performance on the field and ability? Or is it more about the total package?

By total package, I mean, is there an intangible that some teams have and some don’t?

What is an intangible? How does one get it? How does one lose it?

Lots of New Yorkers claim Derek Jeter has “it,” that certain ability to come through in the clutch, to carry a team, to “will a team to victory.” Is he some kind of mysterious human version of Yoda? How about others through history like Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Mark Messier and hundreds more? Are they aliens with super powers to control games and other players?

I doubt it. Most likely they are highly prepared, highly focused athletes. They are no different from the person who scores a perfect score on the SAT, or gets straight A’s in school. They are not super human. They may have a certain gift for the skill needed, but there’s no doubt that they also work harder than anyone else.

When it’s a choice between “one more lap, one more throw, one more review of the material, one more whatever” and TV, they skip TV (or any other pastime) and put in the extra work. That’s where the edge comes from. That’s where the ability to come up big when it counts comes in.

Performance on a test or an athletic field is about the same things, ability, knowledge, confidence and desire. All four are needed in equal measure.

We just had a student get a perfect score on the SATs in Pelham. That was not by accident or because they are a natural genius. I am sure they have a gift, but I am also sure they studied and prepared harder than anyone else. I am sure while other kids were watching TV, playing Xbox 4000 or just hanging out, they were putting in the time to be the best.

A military leader once said “luck seems to come to my best prepared troops.” That does seem to be true of life in general.

I look at the experiences of the three teams I am involved with now, NYAC’s national championship team, Pelham U15 and Pelham U13. Both NYAC and the U15 team went undefeated last season, while the U13 team only won once. Was it the coaching? Probably not. While NYAC has an awesome set of coaches, Pelham’s teams share the same four coaches.

In terms of NYAC, it is easy to see why they won. They are highly motivated, highly skilled, highly knowledgeable and confident young men. We do almost no fitness at practice. We trust that the players will do it on their own, and they do. Pelham’s U15 team is also highly motivated, and they come to practice ready and “turned on” to practice.

So, next time your child complains about a loss, or asks what they can do about getting better, explain to them that getting better in rugby is no different than getting better grades or getting better in any other sport. They must practice, and they must have a desire to get better.

This is one of the best things about coaching kids. You get to watch those kids who really like the sport get better and better as they mature and decide for themselves that they want to spend more time getting better.

Last week at NYAC’s game, I got to watch five players who I coached at Iona step on the field for NYAC. Three started and two came off the bench in a historic win—the first time the Ontario Travelers (a Canadian all-star team) lost to an American team. It was very fulfilling for me to see five of “my guys” play a significant role in the win. Most fulfilling is the idea that not only did I teach them skills, but that I instilled a love of the game and helped foster a desire to compete at the highest level they can.

See you on the field.

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