Learning from challenges


Congratulations to the Williamsport Millionaires on an excellent football season. I was disappointed to see this amazing team lose in the state quarterfinals last Saturday, but the season was incredible for the fans, and between the coaches, players, and the school supporting them, I think the team has a great future ahead of them.

As disappointed as I was in the loss, I think I was more disappointed in the reaction I’ve seen from so many fans and alumni. I know our instinctive reaction when faced with disappointment is to find something to blame.

But let’s not do this. Let’s not make excuses. The matchup wasn’t fair. Of course it wasn’t fair. What matchup is? Isn’t that exactly what we want our children to learn? We don’t want them to learn that it wasn’t fair, and that’s why they lost. We want them to recognize that there were big challenges and obstacles in front of them, and we have to find a way to overcome them.

Last Saturday, they weren’t able to overcome all of the obstacles. That’s okay. Maybe next time they won’t either … but let’s take the idea that they CAN’T overcome those obstacles off the table.

Let’s take this private school vs. public school debate out of the picture. Sure – Pittsburgh Central Catholic has a lot of built-in advantages that Williamsport doesn’t have. That isn’t the story of the game, and that isn’t the story of the schools. If we’re talking about inequality, then I’m pretty sure almost every single school that Williamsport stomped this year could be crying the same thing. Williamsport has a ton of advantages over most private and public schools!

Leveraging your advantages against your opponent is one of the real-life lessons that sports teaches us. Losing to a team that leveraged their size advantage against Williamsport isn’t something to be ashamed of or cry foul over. It is something to learn from and adapt from. Sports show us over and over how to turn perceived disadvantages into advantages and turn mismatches into your favor. What a great life lesson that these young men have a chance to learn from. I’ll bet if these two teams matched up again tomorrow, the outcome would be different. Perhaps Central Catholic would still win, but the coaches and the players would have adapted their gameplan to compensate for their opponent based on their experience last Saturday.

What isn’t a great life lesson is hearing the community say that it wasn’t fair. That diminishes the team’s effort and turns the loss into a waste. That’s saying that the advantages of the other team were too much to overcome, and basically implies that playing the game was a waste of time.

Williamsport played a great game. They got beat by a team with superior size and perhaps skill. Just like almost every team that was crushed by Williamsport was beaten by a team with superior size, speed, and skill. I didn’t hear any Williamsport fans complaining that those matchups were unfair. Let’s stop teaching our students to look for something to blame, and start teaching them about overcoming adversity and using painful experiences as a learning tool.

The good news is, I bet the coaches and players are doing this already and ignoring the noise from the fans. So let’s all do the same thing.