Leadership in Athletics: Recovering from Defeat

Wimbledon ’19 ended with an incredible match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, both previous Wimbledon champions. The match provided many great lessons on grit, determination, patience and hard work — but the biggest takeaway may be on losing like a champion.

It came down to tie breaker. Either player could have won, but Djokovic came out on top. He showed grace in winning just like Federer displayed in losing.

As Federer said: “Take it on your chin, you move on. You try to forget, try to take the good things out of this match. There’s just tons of it. Similar to ’08 maybe, I will look back at it and think, ‘Well, it’s not that bad after all.’ For now it hurts, and it should, like every loss does here at Wimbledon. I’m very strong at being able to move on because I don’t want to be depressed about actually an amazing tennis match.”

Sports have taught us that we can sometimes give our best effort and still not win (that is what is wrong with participation trophies but that is a post for another day). Playing sports teaches us to get back up and play on. As former basketball coach Morgan Wootten said, “You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going.”

Leaders can’t let losses define them. They have to learn from the loss, figure out how to get better and then put in the work. More often than not, there is a next game that allows an athlete a chance at redemption. This can transcend sports.

As the late Bob Feller, a famous baseball player, put it, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

Federer is a champion. He will learn from the match and come back ready to go in the next tournament. Leaders can all learn from his example. Leaders need to pick themselves up after a loss and get back to work.

Their team needs them to be a role model and show them how to be resilient.


Photo Credit: Carine06

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