Ever thought it was possible to win through losing? Seems odd, huh? Well…it happens in the sport of wrestling.
This past weekend my son Grant and the Allatoona Buccaneer Wrestling Team competed in the Georgia High School Association’s Region 6AAAAAA Dual Meet Wrestling Championships.
Wrestling Scoring System for Dual Meets
For those unfamiliar with the sport, here is a quick breakdown. There are fourteen weight classes on a wrestling team. In a dual format, there are fourteen individual matches (if each team can fill each weight class). There are four ways an individual wrestler can earn points for the team:
- Win the match by 7 or less points, you earn the team 3 points.
- Win the match by 8 to 14 points, you earn the team 4 points.
- Win the match by 15 or more, you earn the team 5 points.
- Win by pin, you earn the team 6 points.
Now that you are up to speed, let’s go to the scenario from Saturday.
Setting the Stage
The Bucs were in a big match to go to the region finals and potentially earn a trip to the State Tournament. It had been seven years since the team had been to the State Dual Meet Championships. This was a huge opportunity for the program.
Every team match starts at a different weight. This one started at the 126 lb. weight class, which meant the last match would be the 120 lb. weight class. Grant wrestles that weight class!
My wife, Shannon, is still learning the scoring system for the sport as well. With about three matches left, we were neck and neck with the other team. I ran some scenarios in my head and questioned myself as to whether I should share the stark reality with her. I hesitantly turned to her and said, “the whole match is going to come down to our son!”
The reason that I knew the potential scenario was that the other team did not have a 120 lb. wrestler, just a 113 lb. They were going to give us six points through a forfeit at 120 lbs. But, in the match format, the other coach can bump a wrestler up one weight class for matchup purposes.
As the 113 match was called, the other coach had a decision to make. He looked across the mat and evaluated our 113 lb. wrestler who is a senior and has the physique to match it, or the skinny little 120 lb. freshman warming up beside him. The coach made the decision he felt best for his team to win the match…and our son was it.
Winning Through Losing
We were winning by four headed into the match. If you remember the scoring system, if Grant won the match in any fashion or lost by less than seven points, we move on to the finals.
The whistle blows, and before you can blink, Grant is down 5 to 0. Headed into the second of three periods, he is down 7 to 1. Things are not looking good in the moment.
Midway through the second period, the tide starts to shift. Grant battles back, point by point. The other kid starts to slow down. Grant scores a takedown with less than 30 seconds in the match, he is now down by 2. Time expires, he comes up short. He lost 11 to 9.
He lost, but the team won. They are now headed to the State Championships. On the forty-five-minute drive home, I started to think about what leadership lessons were buried in the concept of winning through losing.
Here are three random thoughts on what we lose as leaders in order for the team to win:
The further we go positionally in leadership, the more self we lose. The priority becomes others, not us.
Loss of self leads to one of the best qualities of a great leader…humility. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It is not about us.
With the sacrifice of self, we may lose, but the team wins.
A quick fact. Any leader that tells you they are in control or have everything under control is…delusional. As we grow positionally, we have less and less control. Control over our schedules, tasks, projects, circumstances, and at times our sanity. Chaos, confusion, and conflict can easily control our days.
One of the hardest transitions for a leader to make is to relinquish control. The pressures we face, the outcomes we are measured by, all lead to a natural inclination to control things.
It. Just. Isn’t. Possible. When we lose our need to control everything, we may lose, but the team wins.
The higher we go in leadership, the more administrative work that comes. Administrative work that is tied to budgets, compliance, personnel, and tough decisions making. The “fun” things we got to do on the climb up, become a small part of our career.
Here is the reality. We get to do fewer fun things so others can do more fun things. Don’t get me wrong, I have fun at work. But, there are days that riding a Z-turn lawn mower, mowing a baseball field sounds pretty fun too!
When we lose fun things, we may lose, but the team wins.
As a lifelong competitor as a player and/or coach, I have never been a fan of losing. As I have matured, there has been one scenario I have evolved to accepting, winning through losing. Those moments when I lose, but the team wins.
This past week, I found myself in one of those administrative heavy, not so fun weeks. In the midst of the fog, I had an extremely clear moment. I got to see a team member shine brightly in a big moment. It hit me then. That is what leadership is about…seeing others win.
Those we are entrusted to lead win through our loss of self, loss of control, and loss of fun. That is how we get to the championship rounds of leadership.