Does Win­ning or Los­ing Re­ally Count in Sports?

Special Focus - - Contents - Lang Ping

It seems that the life of an ath­lete is all about two words—“win­ning” and “los­ing.” When­ever I see my friends, they never ask about my life, or my phys­i­cal con­di­tion; in­stead, they say some­thing like, “Hey! You seem to be do­ing well lately. You won another match!” or “When do you think you can ace out the Cuban team and take the crown?”

Me­dia re­ports also seem to echo this sen­ti­ment— “When will you take another win, Lang Ping?”

I feel dizzy when I hear such greet­ings, es­pe­cially dur­ing those days when I had just come back to China from the United States. Maybe I was in­flu­enced by Amer­i­can cul­ture, so I didn’t con­cern my­self with suc­cess or fail­ure.

In Amer­i­can peo­ple’s minds, as long as you give it your best shot, you shouldn’t worry about the re­sults it brings—re­gard­less of win­ning or los­ing—as suc­cess is de­ter­mined by many fac­tors, such as your at­ti­tude and ca­pa­bil­ity.

But in China, we are in the habit of pur­su­ing a sin­gle goal: to win, to take the crown, and to be in­vin­ci­ble. As a youth, my life was all about vol­ley­ball. If I didn’t play well, the bril­liance and mean­ing of my life would be gone; there­fore, I was un­der tremen­dous men­tal stress to win. When­ever I lost a game, a huge ques­tion mark would flash into my mind: How am I sup­posed to face my sup­port­ers?

While liv­ing in the United States, my vol­ley­ball coach, Raul, and I al­ways con­fided in each other. Raul said, “There is only one world cham­pion, but life is not all about win­ning. Play­ing vol­ley­ball is a ca­reer that we love, so we should try to get more fun from it, in­stead of feel­ing un­der pres­sure all the time. Peo­ple vary in terms of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, for ex­am­ple, some peo­ple can carry a load of 20 kilo­grams eas­ily, but to you, 15 kilo­grams is the limit. So, if you can carry a load of 15 kilo­grams, then you are a win­ner.”

When I was the as­sis­tant coach to Raul at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico, it seemed like the only thing I ever said was, “No, that’s the wrong way to do it.” What­ever the play­ers did, I would say “No.” How­ever, Raul took a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach; she al­ways said things like, “Great. It’s a good move, but prac­tice it more and have it thor­oughly mas­tered,” or “Well, it doesn’t seem good enough. Please try it again. You can do bet­ter.”

Her man­ner had a pos­i­tive ef­fect, which helped to cul­ti­vate a per­son’s self- re­spect and self- con­fi­dence. At first, I wasn’t used to it my­self. When­ever I re­ceived com­pli­ments, I replied mod­estly, “No, I am not a good player.” Other peo­ple wouldn’t un­der­stand, so they asked, “You’re the world cham­pion. If you are not a good player, then who is?” I turned speech­less.

The rea­son why our team could win was due to the fact that we didn’t give up in the face of dif­fi­cul­ties. Cham­pi­ons are not nec­es­sar­ily those who fought hard, and those who lost a game might still have tried their best. In fact, win­ning is not the only thing that mat­ters—it is the hu­man spirit that we play for.

In the 1984 Los An­ge­les Olympic Games, though the US women’s national vol­ley­ball team failed to take the crown, they were an ex­cel­lent and im­pres­sive team; thus, the Amer­i­can au­di­ence’s re­ac­tion to­wards their loss in the fi­nals was, “No wor­ries. We’ll try again next time.”

Flo Hy­man has de­voted all her life in play­ing vol­ley­ball. Though her team never won a cham­pi­onship, her statue was still erected in the United States Olympic Train­ing Cen­ter, and US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan also called upon Amer­ica to learn from the spirit of the US women’s national vol­ley­ball team. Such an at­ti­tude to­wards suc­cess and fail­ure, as I see it, re­flects a na­tion’s men­tal­ity.

Many peo­ple are sen­si­tive about win­ning or los­ing, but they may not un­der­stand its true mean­ing—that is, God will never pity those who care too much about gains and losses. Never give in to hard­ship, have full con­fi­dence in “stay­ing alive,” and make ev­ery ef­fort to “sur­vive”—the mean­ing and value of such a qual­ity out­weighs win­ning and los­ing.

(From The Pas­sion­ate Years: Lang Ping’s Bi­og­ra­phy, Ori­ent Pub­lish­ing Cen­ter. Trans­la­tion: Zhu Yaguang)

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