This game we love is a fickle one. For the best team does not always win and the difference between winning and losing is often remarkably narrow. And the joys and sorrow of associated with either side of the equation often feels greatly magnified.
Winning and losing doesn’t need to be the be-all, end-all it sometimes feels like, as there is much to enjoy on the merit of the game alone. The associated benefits of winning though is a powerful reminder why we all commit so fully to it. Winning often breeds winning and success can breed continued success, at least in the realm of team sports. While losing can create disappointment which can fester into animosity, uncertainty, and a lack of commitment. Losing can also be taken as an opportunity and used as a galvanizing factor for motivation, learning and growth (see: the Rapids home tie (and subsequent Rocky Mountain Cup series loss) to Real Salt Lake in the last game of the 2010 regular season that ultimately helped propel the team to the MLS Cup Championship) . But it takes a certain kind of leadership and maturity to look at losses in this manner and may only be possible for teams to do over the shorter-term. Imagine being relatively unsuccessful for seasons at a time and still maintaining this forward-thinking paradigm. It would be tough for even the most committed.
Focusing solely on results has the unintended consequence of harming in the long-run as no team will always win and if winning is the only thing, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment no matter how successful you are. And focusing on the result misses what may be the most critical point. The only thing that affects your ability to win or lose is the hundreds, potentially thousands, of factors that go into actually winning a contest. These factors, from leadership, to tactics, to resiliency, to professionalism, to attitude, to buy-in, to recruiting are what makes the difference in getting the results. Thankfully, these are the part of the equation that we, as coaches and players, have influence over. The wins and loses wind up taking care of themselves based on the attention we apply to these factors in our control.
This is why developing a belief amongst a team or club in a growth mindset is essential to the longer-term success of the program. Now, what is a growth mindset? A growth mindset is a belief that “success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness” instead of purely on an innate ability that people are born with. It is the idea that we can all improve at each practice and each game on what we have done previously. And that we are active participants in making the decision to either improve or devolve our abilities and likelihood for future success. It’s important to put in a caveat here that success, especially at the top levels of sporting, has to be a mixture of both innate talent and a growth mindset. That said, it seems possible that many at the top simply wouldn’t have gotten there unless they realized that they needed to persevere and put in the work in order to get there (See: Michael Jordan).
This is what we strive for within FC Denver. To be able to continually work to improve ourselves, both on and off the field. Honestly, it’s easier NOT to do this. It’s easier to do what we have always done, but then you must accept the results you have always gotten. And even if those results are victorious, it’s only a matter of time before someone that works harder and wants it more surpasses you. Belief in the growth mindset allows us to take winning and losing with a balanced approach as they represent only the end-result of the work and focus put in during the preparation and execution of the game itself. This is why we, even as a pay-to-play adult amatuer soccer club, push ourselves to improve, to be on time, to demand more of ourselves and our teammates. We believe that this mindset will ultimately take us to where we want to be regardless of whether we happen to win or lose on any given day. We honor the process of being the best we can be. This is #WhyWePlay.