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Is Winning Everything?

By Senior Instructor Nate Torra

Some people say that competitive sports, like business and war, is a zero sum game. It doesn’t matter how well you fought, or how good your technique was, the only thing that matters is if you won or not.

This brings up an interesting question: is winning everything?

Personally speaking, I think that I (and probably a lot of other athletes) put way too much emphasis on “winning” rather than trying their hardest and letting the chips fall where they may. As a competitor, I honestly wish I could have separated myself from the results and instead just “enjoyed the process” of training hard and using tournaments as a way to test my training.

Although I agree that winning and losing are very cut and dry and that victory for a competitive athlete is important, at the end of the day it’s the person you become through training and competition and the lessons you learn through the process that matter the most.

My advice to competitive athletes?

Make the goal, work towards it, and at the day of competition do your best to “let go” of any attachment to winning because winning is NOT the bottom line in life.

Instead of making “winning” the bottom line, why not make “training to win” the bottom line?

If you can step on the mat the day of competition and feel confident and proud of the training you’ve put in, then you’ve already won.

5 Responses so far.

  1. Linda says:

    Ahhhh, how I so agree. Nate, what wonderful advice to those aspiring athletes who have those same feelings you had through your career. I hope they can take note of and apply it to their own careers and lives. I believe you have “won”. As Kim said, nice post. xoxo mom

  2. Robert Jones says:

    I found this to be an interesting article for many reasons. I know that Nate was an extremely high level competitor in Judo but I never was a high level competitor in any sport. I picked up Judo in my mid 20s and found it to be a challenge. I still compete at the age of 30 and to say the least its quite difficult. Now that I am currently living in Japan, most of the people who I train with are in there early twenties are training on local college teams. They train 4-5 days a week and have been doing so since they were very young.

    90% of the time I can’t expect to win in my competitions, even when I am 25 kilograms heavier than my opponent. Does that make me want to train less or give up? Not at all.

    I grew up with a father who was a scout for professional baseball and would regularly see people who were on the verge of becoming pro athletes. Seeing the number of people who didn’t make it into professional baseball from a young age was a real eye opener. However, when I think back to all of those days of watching all of the players with my father, I’m sure none of them regret trying as hard as they did.

    With Judo and many other sports, the benefits that take with us are not just trophies. We take with us long lasting friendship, determination, and perseverance. Wanting to win is certainly not a bad thing but I think wanting to be better with each passing day is certainly a more achievable and satisfying goal.

  3. Scott Moore says:

    Great article. As an athlete I put so much emphasis on winning and of course it feels good to win but the experiences I had during the training have had more of an affect on my life than the wining did.

  4. Auntie Eileen says:

    Great article, Nate ! As a coach, I always told my team there were four possible outcomes: a Great win, a bad win, a great loss, and a poor loss! Obviously, the best is a great win, highly prepared and coming out a winner, but I would take a great loss over a bad win, ANYDAY ! I think this says it all: the will to prepare to win is infinitely more important then the will to win!

  5. Nate Tora says:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I feel a little embarrassed when I read my blog post because although I hold these values true to my heart , unfortunately I wasn’t able to fully apply them during my career.

    A big part of this was due to me being so focused on the end result, i.e. “winning or losing”, that I wrote myself off as someone who wouldn’t be able to be Olympic Champ, or whatever, no matter how hard I trained. So instead of giving everything I had, I worked pretty hard, but at the same time didn’t make the sacrifices that were necessary to allow me to reach my full potential because “what did it really matter anyway I was still not going to ever be the ABSOLUTE best”.

    I see now that whether or not I ever became Olympic or World Champion is really irrelevant. Because of Judo I met the love of my life, made lifelong friends across the globe, and developed a work ethic that I feel is strong enough to where I feel now that I really can accomplish anything, as long as I set my mind to it and PUT IN THE PRACTICE.

    Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight, experience, and understanding then that I have now, but having to live with my regrets is just another thing that I learned from my judo career, so that I don’t make those same mistakes again.