Finding Purpose in a Losing Season
As the football season comes to a close I have started to hear the all-too-familiar words coming from my coach. “I just don’t want the season to end.” He loves the competition, he enjoys the planning, but the ache in his voice every year has nothing to do with either of those things.
It’s about the boys, the boys who will no longer be in his direct care. He aches for those who he won’t have again for nine months, for those who will graduate, and especially for those who may choose not to play again. The ones he may not get the chance to influence again.
When compounded with a losing season, these feelings are especially strong. We know coaches who win sometimes get the larger platform to speak influential, life-changing words into the lives of these young men. We know because we’ve been there. We also know that losing seasons can sometimes create barriers to that influence. We’ve been there too.
And so I offer this poem to the coaches and wives who have experienced a difficult season this year. To those who may be encouraged by some words that may inject some additional purpose, perspective, and inspiration for those young men who will walk away from us after the banquet.
Maybe, just maybe, those players will hear this and think about the years down the road when this season’s lessons will be exactly what they need for their lives.
When You Lose
A secret of coaches that most people don’t know
Is their deepest fear when a season is low
Is that the boys will miss what they need if there aren’t enough wins
That they’ll get away before they learn what they really need in the end
But one thing we all know if we live long at all
Is that some seasons go well and in some seasons we fall
Transition and change has found you boys this season
You’ve worked hard, you’ve learned much but still, “What is the reason?”
When you’ve won so few games, tell me where is the lesson?
It’s in the grind, my son, where you find the blessing.
Far beyond high school, as your parents all know
May be days, months, and years where you don’t like how it goes.
They’ve had their own seasons of life that weren’t fun
They’ll tell you it felt like they lost more than they won.
Because results in this life don’t often come free
And we benefit little from saying, “But what about me?”
So we put on our helmets and draw our armor up tight
The greatest achievements in life often come with a fight.
Football isn’t everything and there’s life beyond the score
But the lessons we learn in these years help prepare us for more
So to you young man, who has shown up every day
The boy who hasn’t quit, whose loyalty hasn’t strayed
You, my son, are building skills for your life
Things that will bless your work, your children, your wife
When the business you start doesn’t take off right away
And your ledger is in the red and your employees won’t stay
You will put in the hours and show up every morning
Because in these years of trial your perseverance was forming
When your daughter comes home, tears filling her eyes,
“I really tried my best Dad, and it still wasn’t right.”
You will have words for her to try that test again
Because you know what it feels like to have to begin
When your marriage is hard and it would be easy to quit
You will sit in the silence and awkward a bit
Yes, a little bit longer than maybe another
Who hasn’t had a season like this with his brothers
Each day you strap up, your helmet and cleats
Your jersey, your shoulder pads, the socks on your feet
You need these now but one day you’ll turn them in
And football will be over, and that’s when you begin
To use what you’ve learned in seasons high and low
To know how to celebrate and more importantly, how to grow
And so we pray that you boys get exactly what you need
The lessons that come from wins, and those from defeat
So go forward young man with your head held high
This season has been tough but the future is bright
Thank you for the way that you’ve played your part
We are proud of your work, the display of your heart.
– Anne Rulo
Anne is an author, speaker, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist and veteran coaches wife. She and her husband Tim have two children and they have been a coaching family through a state championship run and very difficult losing seasons. They are passionate about encouraging coaching families both in and out of season.