When losing is good

Can losing be a good thing for you?

Well, I think so.  If you can learn something from your loss and make the necessary corrections, then sometimes losing can be just what your team needs.

Going into our league championship this year, my 11/12 yr old team had come off the season with a 9-3 record, and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. As the top seeded team, we faced the team that had only 4 wins and 8 losses.  While I was not feeling like anything was a sure thing, the players didn’t seem to feel the urgency. They were remembering early wins against that team, but had forgotten how much that team had improved over the course of the season.  They also conveniently seemed to forget that the last time we faced this team, we lost.

So, we lost the first playoff game, dropping us into the loser’s bracket.  The other team dominated the game.  We had only one hit for the entire game.  One lousy hit! We did get on base with some walks, but we also had too many strike-outs, not to mention a slew of defensive errors.

In our team talk after the game, we talked about how we didn’t have our heads in the game, how we took winning for granted, and how much effort it would now take to end up in the top slot.

For our next game, I re-instituted my tried and true pre-game batting warm up regimen, which I go into here. For a variety of reasons, I hadn’t been using these consistently this season, even though I know they work. And boy, did they ever work!

While all this was going on, we also did our infield and outfield drills while I had every one of our pitchers take a turn on the bullpen mound so I could see where they were at and what corrections they might need to make.

That plus our pre-game team talk got them fired up.  I asked them if they knew what the phrase “do or die” meant.  I also told them to not think about the future games, because all we needed to think about was the game we were going to play that day.  Because there was no tomorrow.

They got it into their heads and we won every game after that to end up as the Champions.  We didn’t just go back and eke out our wins either.  We had big, giant wins.  We averaged over 14 hits per game, our pitching was extraordinary and our defensive plays were like nothing I had seen from them before.  Our 1st 6 batters were unstoppable, with hit after hit, and doubles and triples thrown in as well.

One kid in the bottom half of the order batted .500 with clutch power hits up the middle and also drew walks.  He was on base every single time. Another batted .300 with some key RBI’s.  The top of the order was in the .650 to .900 range.

Here’s what I think happened.  Losing the first game shook them up.  The pre-game warm-ups and team talk gave them confidence, and after the first big win they completely believed in themselves.  They knew each day was do or die, and they all wanted to live.

In looking back, I’m glad we lost that first game.  Had we coasted into first place, it would have felt good, but it wouldn’t have been as thrilling.  By fighting back all the way through the loser’s bracket, the kids were totally pumped up and felt like the true champions that they were.

Do you have any success stories that came about from losing a game?  I bet we all do.

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