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“The Press Box” for March 10, 2021

By Randy Rutherford - Staff Writer | Mar 10, 2021

Remember the famous opening of Wide World of Sports on ABC in the 60s and 70s? I am sure athletes today have never heard of it, but they can Google it or catch it on YouTube. The show opened with inspiring music showing a race car driver shaking a bottle of champagne surrounded by beautiful women after successfully crossing the finish line first, and then quickly flashing to a skier going down a steep ski jump and dramatically crashing through a barrier on the landing. The thrill of victory! The agony of defeat! The human drama of athletic completion! This retro sports show opening tries to combine both human feelings of winning and losing in single snapshot. What happens behind the scene to prepare the athlete for winning and losing is something not many can relate to unless you have been there.

Hard work always pays off; and winning takes care of itself if you are properly prepared, but eventually losing is inevitable. It will happen regardless of how hard you work. Maybe it’s something as simple as the opponent had better equipment or more practice time. Sometimes the other team or individual just had more talent than you. Anyway, losing happens, and it is always a bitter pill to swallow.

Everyone is celebrating the fact high school sports are back in our lives, and with this start our athletes will begin to experience both of these emotions. Everybody wants to win, but somebody has to lose. I don’t like to talk about losing, but it is a certainty at some point. How we handle each of these outcomes determines the type of person we eventually become.

Coaches say things like, “You win like you lose.” When you win have compassion for the loser. Sports teach us how to be humble in life. When a person is proud of his or her accomplishment, that’s great, but he or she should not dwell on gloating, but be complimentary of the opponent’s effort. By doing this we are teaching those around us (our kids) to respect others and their achievements no matter if your team is the victor or loser.

Athletes may hate running, like I did, but they gain a healthy addiction to tough workouts. Being pushed to the breaking point is all a part of getting in the best physical shape to compete successfully. Have you ever finished a brutal workout and experienced a natural high? That one when you’re so thankful it’s over, but you also are flying on a feeling of great accomplishment! Doctors way smarter than me say it is “endorphins” released by your body to reduce your perception of pain. These same endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. These positive feelings help develop the attitude you need for winning.

Children who grow up playing sports eventually realize that taking care of their bodies is more gratifying than simply sitting on the couch or spending way too much time addicted to screens.

Some athletes, especially professional athletes, can become very spoiled by their successes. With fame, money and a sense of entitlement, they begin to see themselves as more important than the sport they represent. Maybe you feel Tiger Woods is a good example, but I believe he is the opposite. For sure Tiger has seen the highs of his sport and most recently the lows of his sport. Tiger is one of the greatest golfers of our time. His recent setbacks have put him in a position where he is constantly battling back. Following multiple back surgeries he won the Masters, one of golf’s four majors. Now he is suffering his most recent setback, a car accident in California, which shattered his leg and ankle. Will he be back? My bet is, yes! Tiger, like most professional athletes, knows what it takes to rehab an injury. The ones that can successfully rehab their injury come back and ultimately get back on the winning trail. While other athletes because of age, or the attitude that they just don’t want go through the rehab again, call it quits and move on with their life. Like I said before, my money is on Tiger. I think we will see him competing again.

I have attended several practices at Tyler Consolidated and Paden City High School in the past couple of weeks. Whether it is Tyler Consolidated boys basketball with 28 kids, or Paden City girls basketball with seven girls, the practices are just as hard and the enthusiasm is just as high. These kids all have hopes of a winning season. Some will achieve it; some will not. What I have noticed is coaches at both schools never talk down or diminish the effort that their players are giving them. They encourage and they teach and they hope that their kids can achieve some success.

Regardless of the win loss record a year ago and the number of athletes out for a particular sport, all of our local coaches enter the season with a positive attitude and hopes for a winning season. Even though some of the teams lack the numbers and realize that their success may not be as they hoped, they still put in the time and the work. They learn from winning and they learn from losing.

Attitude, practice, desire, work ethic, and discipline are all things that I have discussed in past articles and remain attributes that define a successful athlete. All the recent articles of “Where are They Now” in our paper have highlighted successes local athletes have achieved both in sports and in life. Each well known star of the past had several common threads. They were dedicated to their sport and put in long hours of practice. They each had amazing victories. They each experienced some major disappointments or low points in their sports career, too. How we react to victory and defeat can lead us to be our best selves. So take a deep breath and remember. Coming to terms with a disappointing loss builds huge resiliency. And winning builds confidence that will follow the athlete through life.

At the beginning of any season dozens of teams around the area begin with the same dream of a championship season, but only one will be holding up the trophy at the end of the tournament. It’s the same story everywhere. There are always going to be more losers than there are winners. So it’s important to learn to be good at both. But for every kid ready to take the floor or the mat this season, keeping the mindset of being a winner will build your chances toward the thrill of victory! Good luck!