Winning and Losing

Two weekend body shots served to two teams’ that mean the most to me. Welcome to college and pro sports, everyone – the road to finding out if what you’re made of can handle the turbulence of both winning and losing.

It’s much easier to give credit to the opposing team after a win. Doing so shows courtesy and sportsmanship. Psychologically, you’re also verbalizing that however valiant the opposing team’s effort and strategy was, it still wasn’t good enough. Giving credit after a loss is much more difficult, because through that credence, you’re admitting that the opposing team’s effort and strategy was better. And in sports, vulnerability is an outlier.

Sports Illustrated has called the Blue Jays and Terrapins rivalry one of the best in all of college sports. Saturday’s game was the 115th edition, and was the highest attended, seating close to 15,000 fans at Byrd Stadium. I heard the atmosphere was electric. The Terps came out hot, leading 6-0 after one, and 8-0 before Hopkins even got on the board. Not an ideal start for the Blue Jays.

In week 2 of MLL, we lost to the Denver Outlaws, having scored only 7 points to their 13. We’re an offense that includes Rob Pannell, Joe Walters, Dave Lawson, and other talented ball handlers, dodgers and finishers. And of the 7 points, Kyle Hartzell (defender) hit a 2-pointer and Greg Gurenlian scored off of a face off.

Here’s how I like to think about losses – whether season-ending or not (gladly in both cases, it’s the latter) – opportunity often comes disguised as defeat. A friend of mine passed along another thought igniter – your muscles only grow when they’re sore.

It can only be opportunity if we decide to lean in to team culture and poor play, and try to uncover more than the missed slide or bad pass. In either case, there’s opportunity to respond in the next game. There’s even greater opportunity to use this moment to stick together and grow closer as a unit. The latest example in college lacrosse? UNC’s tournament run last year, followed by their ACC tournament turnaround this weekend, beating both Cuse and Notre Dame. And what about pro lacrosse? Just last year, the Denver Outlaws needed to win their last 7 games of the regular season to be playoff eligible…so they did, plus the few losses by other teams they needed to bank on, and they went on to win the MLL Championship.

I’m not suggesting you have to lose to win (there have been several undefeated college lacrosse champions), rather, experiencing defeat can cause a team or organization to think differently, embrace more, and ultimately perform with more edge.

The Jays enter the BIG10 tournament with a first round game against OSU. I’m sure they’ll be looking to avenge their regular season loss. I hope they can also remember how privileged they are to have had the opportunity to play a great Maryland team, representing 115 years of in-state rivaled lacrosse, in front of 15,000 people, nationwide TV viewers, and Johns Hopkins supporters at their back…everywhere. The Lizards enter our first bye week (side note: after 10 seasons I’m still unsure how schedules are determined by league officials) sitting at 1-1. Much different than the Blue Jays, we’ve only been together for 4 weeks (counting training camp). We’ll have to win a lot more games (and probably lose a few more) before we find out about ourselves.

Above all else, getting a chance to play lacrosse to resolve offset emotion is fun, isn’t it? We should feel good about that.

For more weekly musings, including a rundown of the top news, articles, videos, scores and reactions, subscribe to my email newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Rabil News

Our top lacrosse stories, content and analysis delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.