By Patsy Neal

source: Amarillo Globe Times

Recently, I heard Sen. Lindsey Graham say on TV that he was “in to win.” Vince Lombardi, the great professional football coach, felt the same way when he said, “Winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing.”

I have won a lot of times. I played basketball at Wayland College when our team won the National AAU Championship two out of four years. I was also on the Wayland team when we established a record 131 straight wins.

Strangely, those are not the things I remember most about my sports participation. The thing I remember, and value the most, was the game we lost. We were playing Nashville Business College in the semifinals of the AAU National Championships when the unexpected happened. We lost by four points and our 131 straight game record, which had taken Wayland teams five years to establish, was shattered. So, were we.

Even now, decades later, I can almost replay that whole game and how it felt when we lost. My most vivid memory was what our coach, Harley Redin, said after calling a timeout when it was evident we could not win the game. As we dejectedly huddled around him, he simply said, “Go out and lose the game the same way you have been winning.” At the time, what he said didn’t make sense or seem appropriate. We wanted to scream and cry and act like the immature college students we were. But out of respect for him, we tried to end our season, and our record, with some degree of grace.

What Coach Redin said was not out of character for him. In the four years I played for him at Wayland, and as a member of the USA team he coached in the World Basketball Tournament, never once did I hear him say a word of profanity, or anything inappropriate to a group of giggly, young girls. He worked us hard. We did wind sprints and laps, and more wind sprints and laps. We ran the court practicing ball handling skills; then we ran more laps when we missed free throws.

He set up dress rules and how he expected us to act–and he enforced them. As college students, he emphasized class work His saying was “Brains, Beauty, and Basketball”—in that order. He was a gentleman who went by the rules. He expected us to be ladies and to also go by the rules. As best he could, he prepared us for the day when we would lose and for the day we would leave college and be on our own.

So, what does all of this have to do with Senator Lindsey Graham and all the others who think winning is the only thing? Only two things: leadership and character are more important than winning.

I saw firsthand what dignity and being first class is all about because my coach exhibited it every day. I learned that winning and losing is part of life, and that losing can teach us more than winning can. For example: empathy toward others; examining our strengths and weaknesses, and separating what is valuable and what is not in moving ahead.

Focusing only on winning has created serious problems in our society, exposing flaws in our leadership. Losing one’s dignity, honor, and reputation is a huge price to pay for victory.

I like Grantland Rice’s philosophy (paraphrased): “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Coach Redin evidently believed that also.

Patsy Neal was a three time AAU All-American, captain of the U.S. team in the World Basketball Tournament, and is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

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