Winning vs. Losing Mentality at the Olympic Games

After watching USA beat Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics, I witnessed Andrew Bogut’s post-game interview with a Channel 7 reporter. He’s comments were refreshing, though surprising to many due to his dissatisfied comments on the lose. Even despite “Australia being so proud of the team” for their effort to how close they came to winning.

The broadcast was taken back to the studio where the first thing that was uttered out of the presenter’s mouths was a disdain Andrew Bogut’s competitive nature and lack of acceptance of any praise in the face of a lose as he was touted as having a “poor attitude”.

I felt immediately compelled with a rush of emotion and an urge to voice my thoughts, (usually how many of my video’s and writings are created) on the losing culture I perceive that is being cultivated.

It appears to me that the consensus among the majority of our culture is to celebrate 2nd place. I’ve seen countless times parents, teachers and coaches celebrate false victories to their children and students. I can speak with such confidence about it because I used to be that kid. The kid who was told to try harder next time, but here’s your participation award for 8th place. This type of behavior only worked to reinforce a losing mentality, timidity and lack of self-awareness in me.

From my perception, our culture as a collective would prefer to bring people up and reward them to quickly heal the pain of losing, than see a someone crying because they came in 8th place.

If there’s one thing that dedicating 5–6 years of my life towards basketball — it’s that the precursor for building a strong relentless mental fortitude is to lose, and lose hard. Feel every bit of pain that come’s along with it as a lesson, and don’t try and sugar coat it.

So why are we celebrating loses in our culture?

Watching these Olympics closely has caused me notice an uncompetitive nature in many of these, predominantly, Australian athletes. When many of these athletes will have come in 2nd, 5th, or any place that wasn’t 1st, the first thing I hear, is them justifying the fact that it’s okay that they didn’t win a gold medal, as long as they “left it all out there”. A type of comment like this is usually coupled with a satisfied, generally happy demeanor. YES, giving every your ounce of effort is something to be respected. But why is the shadow of effort used to shroud and justify the harsh reality that you lost?

From my perspective, this culture is sugar coating our athletes and society to accept 2nd or 3rd place as some type consolation to make them feel better about themselves. As a result, we are cultivating mediocrity and timidity instead of a true pursuit of excellence. I just don’t believe everyone is a winner. I don’t believe that we should shroud the pain of losing and falling short with cliche’s and comfort. I just don’t think it’s an accident that so many Asian and Eastern European countries do so consistently well at the Olympics in regards to gold medals, regardless of population numbers.

I really believe from everything I’ve seen that the culture of the most successful countries usually correlates to a strong mental fortitude to strive for greatness. I believe these countries take an extremely meticulous approach, not only to training their athletes, but to raising their society to not accept second place. To not accept, “good enough”, but to hone discipline and aggression to win.

This list averages the medals won per Olympiad, so the success of countries can be compared more directly. Source.

I don’t think many countries do this, and by the looks of what I’ve observed among many Australian’s behavior, especially Olympic swimmers, I don’t think we’re doing very well either.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

One of the only reasons I was able to put myself in the position to play at a relatively high level within basketball was because I did not have a losing mentality. I really believe most of our culture has a losing attitude.

Show me someone whose content with losing, and I’ll show you a loser. Andrew Bogut is no loser. He‘s a NBA champion and did not get there by accident. The man has a relentlessness pursuit to strive for greatness. A relentless pursuit for excellence does not come at the hand of being content with mediocrity.

As amazing as a competing at the Olympics would be, and as proud as you would be for reaching anywhere near that level. Why is curbing our aggression and hunger to win suddenly accepted just because every bodies telling you, you made it? To me, when your competing, first place should be the only goal — to win.

“Everybody wants to win, but the great team, they expect to win. If you settle for second place, when first is available, you’ll do it the rest of your life.

Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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