Dead Last

Why play if the odds of winning are not in your favor?

It seems Facebook is flooded with endless posts of State Champions, 1st place this and 1st place that as we are very much a winner driven society.  It is so important to be first, to be at the top, and to be a “winner”.

However, not everyone can be the winner. Our little school is very often not the winner and often is fighting to not be last place. There are a number of reasons for this, mainly being that we are small in numbers. There are no try-outs and there are no cuts when assembling a sports team. It’s more of a recruitment event as each new sport’s season begins.

Our first year at the school we had two teenage sons with us. One of which was more the athlete while the other one was more the academic. So, the athlete son ends up convincing the academic son to try to join the boy’s varsity soccer team. Our academic son approaches the soccer coach and proclaims an interest in joining the team.  The coach begins to question him.

“So, have you played soccer before?”


“Do you know the rules of soccer?”


“Have you even been on a soccer field?”


“Do you know what a soccer ball looks like?”

“Um, I think so”

“We can use you”

And thus, our academic son joined the boys’ varsity soccer team, having never kicked a soccer ball in his life.

All of the sports’ teams end up recruiting students from below the average playing age. The U12 teams often need to recruit down to 5th and 4th grade. They are operating with anywhere from zero to three or four subs so everyone gets a lot of playing time, even the weakest of players. The combination of young team members, low team numbers, land lack of subs means that each team battles hard for every win and loss on the courts and playing fields.

Sometimes there seems to be more losses than wins. On the last day of the NECIS tournament this past weekend I was substitute coaching again for the U14 boys’ soccer team. During the third of four quarters it was clear there would be no win for us. So, a new tactic came into play. It was the last game of the season and I wanted to make sure each boy had a chance to play where he wished. A new goalie went it and those who desired to shuffle positions did. Everyone played as much as they wanted. The loss was heavy and they knew that the loss meant they were dead last in the tournament but they heartily congratulated the other team and came off of that field with huge smiles on their faces.

Instead of moping around with glum faces they clambered into the stadium seats in the gymnasium to cheer the U12 volleyball team. And, they were truly thrilled and happy for the girls who could enjoy a 2nd place victory.

So, none of the soccer parents will be proudly posting pictures but they should. Their children know how to not become overwhelmed by the goliath opponents they face but rather to focus on personal and team best.. They have learned to gallantly lose and rejoice in the victory of others. A love of the game of soccer exudes from them. As a team they’ve learned and grown together.  The discipline of practice, team commitment, and never giving up are engrained within them. They met all their team goals for the season. These students know, really know, that playing sports isn’t just about winning. They’ve learned that you can still be happy when things don’t go the way you wish. And that is why, when the odds are against you, you still go for it and you still play!

Cheers to all the teams who experienced losses this season! I hope everyone can recover from loss and gain from lessons learned as our U14 soccer players have.