Winning with Humility and Losing with Grace

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By Cindy Edwards

I like flowers, food, traditions and all things Southern; however, I have never been a big sports enthusiast. There is something special, though, about watching my 18-year-old son play high school basketball. A new side of me emerges: I sit as close to the court as possible to be right next to the action.

Many of my closest friends are laughing as they read this. For years, they have been extolling the character-building virtues of organized athletics. I finally get it. I have enjoyed watching the camaraderie that develops, not only between the players and coaches, but also among the parents. I like watching the coach praise—and yes, even scold—the players.

I relish almost every bit of it, except when healthy competition becomes too serious and rears its ugly head. Instead of bringing to light the unpleasant things that I have witnessed, I thought that I would share some of the positive experiences of this past year.

In the fall, I attended several girls’ volleyball games. I have known most of the young ladies on the team since they were in preschool.

It was the second round of the state playoffs.  Savannah Country Day School was poised to win against Wesleyan School. The SCDS team had won the first two games and was ahead by 5 points in the third game.

And then it happened: Wesleyan senior Alana Broe stopped play to tell the official that she had touched the ball before it went out of bounds. The point, which had been awarded to her school was overturned and given to Country Day. It was a crucial moment in the match, and a less honest player might have been inclined to ignore her own mistake rather than speak up and help the opposing team.

After Broe’s call, Ted Russell, head volleyball coach for Wesleyan, called a timeout and said to his players, “I am proud of Alana for making that call. Now, let’s go out there and beat these girls.” It was a rallying point for the Wesleyan girls, and they went on to win the round.

I spoke with Broe, and although her good sportsmanship impressed me, she seemed unphased by her own action. “In the moment, it was a big play,” she explained, “but as soon as the ball touched my hand I was fully prepared to tell the official that we had lost the point because my honor and playing a respectable game is always the most important.”

Wow. What a refreshing assertion from a young person! Broe’s attitude is certainly a reflection of her own upbringing, but there is no doubt in my mind that her coaches must have also shaped her mindset during her years of playing team sports. Teaching girls how to win with humility and lose with grace is a life lesson that Ted Russell tries to instill in all his players. As a 22-year veteran of education, Russell takes his coaching job seriously, and he believes that training his girls
to work as a single unit will help them throughout life. “It is easy when you are winning,” he explains, “but you have to deal with confrontation.”

Two other high school coaches I spoke with echoed Russell’s desire to teach more than just on-the-field skills to their players. Mike Harner, head boys’ basketball coach at Savannah Country Day, always stresses to his players to make the right choices both on and off the court. “I want our players to show respect not only for the game, “ says Harner, “but also to our opponents.”  He says that he always reminds his players that they are role models for every younger child in the school.

Likewise, the girls’ basketball coach at Savannah Country Day, Dale Parker, practices collaboration with her players as well as free throws. “If they can function as part of a team,” she says, “they will be successful in other life situations.” Parker believes that while winning is important, it is even more crucial that coaches inspire their players.

With young people like Alana Broe, the bar has been set much higher—not only for the players, but for all of us watching and cheering.  She is an inspiration!

As always, thanks for reading.

Properly yours,

Photo Credit: Photo of Alana Broe is courtesy of Jack Miller

Cindy Edwards embodies everything pretty, perky and proper about the South. She's a wife, mother, volunteer and freelance writer. Cindy volunteers enough hours to exhaust most by serving on the Board of Trustees for the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and the University of Georgia Honors Advisory Board. She has also served on the Boards of the March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah. Cindy has been married to her college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III, for 25 years and is the proud mother of two sons: Joe IV, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jack, a freshman at Ole Miss. No matter how busy, Cindy always makes time for a competitive game of bridge.
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Great article Cindy! I am fortunate enough to have two athletic children, who can be very competitive at times. They have heard me say many times, life is about choices, those big and small, they all matter. I am so glad that my children chose to play organized sports and become part of a team.

By Karen on May 22, 2012


Wow, it is so awesome to see such integrity and morals in a young person. In today's world, it is rarely seen in our younger generation. It is so important to lead by example as the adults. It is clear to see that the values we instill in our young people have a direct correlation to how they will grow up. Great blog! Look forward to the next.

By Michelle on March 12, 2012


Thank you for this fabulous story. What a remarkable young woman. It is nice to see that manners still exist.

By Anonymous on March 11, 2012


Different era and changing realities have created a time for re-engineering. We are a society plagued by obesity, heart disease, diabetes, arterial disease which the healthcare industry and I believe is attributable to the rise of the fast food restaurant industry. The American diet is the worst in the world. Your cooking is typical of our diet. Taste at any cost. Sauces, fats, and frying. Delicious yes and capable of creating billion dollar enterprises because foolish people, or more realistically human nature, love and must have the greatest of taste. Butters, oils, and frying. Look what butter did for Julia Child the pioneer and creator of today's foodie world. Time for change. We who have contracted illnesses from our diets and want to change our life styles could use a foodie who knows how to make health food, you know the old way of eating before McDonald's and Wendy's and Arbys --- and Paula Deen and Emirl and some others I can't think of right now appealing. Take up the cause - you are needed. Create menus for vegetarians, plant based diets, mediterranean diets. Use your disease to motivate and sympathize with those who have had to alter their eating styles. Those that are morbidly obese, have diabetes, heart disease and those that just want to be healthy. There is a dearth of restaurants catering to vegetarians and health conscious eaters. I for one have been diagnosed with arterial disease and follow the Esselstein diet. This is the diet that Clinton follows after a life of southern cooking now has arterial disease. Go for it Paula. Re-engineer.

By Anonymous on March 05, 2012


Cindy, What a great article. It is true about great sportsmanship. Many lessons will be learned and taught as a team player. This making our children ready to be team players in their future. I can see how Stefy handles herself now at work with her peers. It's about being a team, working together and being honest to get what needs to be done.

By Deanna on February 28, 2012


It is a great reminder,there is more to sports than winning and the real lesson in competition is to play fair & with integrity. Thanks for the story of postive behavior in teenage athletics. HenriEtta

By henrietta tharpe on February 27, 2012


Wonderful article!!!! It has renewed my faith in mankind. Recently I have been feeling like integrity was a thing of the past. Thank you for reminding me that there are many good people in this just seems to be those who aren't so good that get the news coverage. Keep up your good work. I love your articles. Carolyn

By Carolyn on February 26, 2012


Thanks for sharing. There are great youth that never get the recognition they deserve which is so needed as a Christian witness to the world. Love, Nan

By Nan on February 26, 2012


Dearest Cindy, How moved I was by your article on sportsmanship. I was at that game and I remember Alana. Thanks for reminding us of the many important lessons that can be learned playing a sport.

By Val Bowers on February 25, 2012


Yes, it is in the true spirit of sportsmanship that we learn to win with humility and lose with grace. Thank you, Cindy, for a valuable reminder of one of life's most important lessons. Competition should always bring out the best in us.

By Viki Curtis on February 24, 2012


Great article! This is something that all GHSA coaches should read to their players.

By Matt A on February 23, 2012


Enjoyed this article very much.

By Linda Cauley on February 23, 2012


I wish every parent that has a child, or grandchild, playing sports could read this. Good job Cindy!

By Linda Parton on February 23, 2012


Cindy this is an excellent article! Very inspiring and so truthful! If only there were more kids/players like Alana and more coaches like Coach Russell! Imagine where our school's would be? Wonderful example they are setting for all the kids to come! Thanks again for sharing this!

By Rebekah on February 22, 2012


A child can teach us many lessons about life. Thank you,Cindy,for reminding us of the importamt things. Another great blog!!!!

By Anne on February 22, 2012


Thanks, Cindy, for highlighting the positive in the world of athletic competition today. My daughter played volleyball for Coach Russell at Wesleyan, and I can attest to the values they are teaching our children. I am confident that lessons learned on the court will prove invaluable.

By Lynne Middleton on February 22, 2012


It is very refreshing to not only know that there are still young people who take responsibility for their actions but there are also people who believe these characteristics are important to bring to light. Our society is so busy making a spectacle of bad behavior, it is encouraging to find someone who writes of a real accomplishment. Kudos to the young girl who admitted her fault regardless of the penalty, and to you Ms. Edwards for realizing it is worth recognizing.

By Shell on February 22, 2012


Always great to hear that coaches understand the importance of character building in the midst of youth sports. Most of these young athletes will not go on to play competitive sports as adults, but they will need to able apply good sportsmanship throughout their lives.

By G Peverley on February 22, 2012


What a great read. An important lesson for any parent raising kids who are involved in sports!

By Christian L on February 22, 2012


It's so refreshing to hear that teenagers today do have proper manners! Unfortunately we so frequently see the bad in teenagers that it's pleasant to hear the good!

By Linda lisowski on February 22, 2012

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