Here’s the problem with winning. Sometimes it is really close to losing. A penalty here, a bit of luck there, a refereeing decision- they are all tiny things that can sway the outcome of a game, making the difference between winning and losing. When you win, most coaches or athletes never pick apart the performance to discuss what went wrong. The prevailing notion is that everything the team did contributed to the success.
But when you lose, out come the pitchforks, and people start looking for something or someone to blame. The cliche in rugby is that the head coach blames the attack coach, the attack coach blames the defence coach, and the defence coach blames the strength coach. But the point is this: in losing we are far too quick to look for the negatives and assume there were no positives due to the outcome.
The truth is that sometimes you can do everything wrong and still win purely on the basis that the other team is even worse than you. You can also do everything right and still lose. Maybe it would take a decade of improvement to reach the level of the other side and you’re only in the first couple of years. Adopting the traditional mindset of “We won, everything is great” or “We lost, everything is shit” robs us of the ability to derive meaningful information from our performances.
Rather than focus on the outcome (something that is ultimately outside of our control), let’s focus on the process, and improving the processes over which we have complete control. The quality of our game plan, the accuracy of our execution, our adherence to high standards and attention to detail. By managing the process, and striving to be a little bit better each day, the results take care of themselves (hopefully!).
For an extreme example of this, check out the following video of Sir Alex Ferguson being interviewed after winning the Scottish cup final with Aberdeen:
“Unacceptable” & “Doesn’t meet the standards that we set for ourselves as a team” are not typically words uttered by a coach who has just won a major trophy. Could he water it down and allow his team to briefly enjoy their successes? Sure. But his record speaks for itself. I’m sure his ability to try and find the negatives in a win, or the positives in a loss, and to focus on the process rather than the outcome were a major contributor to his success as a coach.