An inspiring loss – sportsmanship at its best
“Three things in life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
--- Henry James, writer (1843-1916)
With the state’s high school basketball tournaments recently wrapped up and the college March madness tournament upon us, I got thinking about sports and how they can, like the arts, enrich us if we can see the beauty in them.
It is not always about the wins and the losses; it is sometimes about the lessons learned, and the people involved, rather than the game itself.
This week’s story is about a young man from the Hyde School in Bath who decided to lose, on purpose, for a purpose. He chose to allow his opponent’s arm to be raised in victory because he recognized that winning takes a back seat to kindness and kindness defines your character, and character controls your moral code.
Hyde School has a focus and a mission statement that defines Hyde education as one with character at its core. Its coaches are expected to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Hyde’s basketball coach, Corey Begly, gives us an example of what character means when he writes about his dad’s influence on him. As a “coach’s son,” Begly has been in the game since birth and he writes about his dad’s “aha” moment.
His dad, Glenn Begly, was hired by a man named Morry Stein, described as 80 percent idealist and 20 percent businessman. Corey writes; “Trust me, he was a great businessman,” implying he must have been an incredible idealist.
In a close game, Coach Glenn was screaming at refs, abusing his players and, in general, acting like a rabid squirrel on the sidelines. His team won and Glenn was soaking it in when Morry approached him, taking the wind right out of his sails; “Glenn, that was one of the most embarrassing coaching performances I’ve ever seen. We don’t do that here.”
Glenn was floored; he had just won the game, wasn’t that what he was hired to do?
His pride shifted quickly to shame, which then turned into a lesson; his takeaway was that the “only kind of winning that’s meaningful is winning that’s done with character." That became the backbone of Glenn’s coaching style from that day forward and he told his son, “Corey ... there is no victory without honor. Always remember that.”
Glenn coached from 1972 to 2013 and won six college conference Coach of the Year awards, taking his teams to 13 NCAA tournaments, including four sweet 16s, one elite eight, and one final four. He had a career record of 319-101 (.760) and his team once won 80 consecutive home games. He was no slouch.
Sometimes you learn more from a loss than you do a win. In business, failure (or what I call “lack of success”) is often the best teacher. You become resilient when you are knocked down, yet you get back up.
Hyde’s wrestling coach, Logan Kidwell, took his varsity wrestlers to Canada to compete in an Olympic-style tournament about a month ago. His high school young men competed valiantly against other teams, including some university students. But that is not what this story is about; this is about “the rest of the story.”
Kidwell writes; “The best way to tell the story of one of the most inspirational moments I’ve seen in my 17 years of coaching is through the words of an opposing coach in what may prove to be a life-changing wrestling match for me and my team.”
Here is the letter written to Hyde President Malcolm Gauld by that coach:
Dear President Gauld;
My name is Shawn Coughlan and I am Coach of the Hampton High School wrestling team in New Brunswick, Canada. This past weekend, our team travelled to Fredericton for the Eastern Canadian Championships. Many other teams were present including the team from your school, led by Coach Logan Kidwell.
During the day, a wrestler from our team found himself in the same division as Hyde wrestler Daric Johnson. As often happens, we keep an eye on our competitors in preparation for matches we will have with them during the day. It was during this time that we witnessed an act of compassion by Daric Johnson and Coach Kidwell that we feel deserves mention.
Another wrestler in this division has what I will describe as “cognitive issues” that would prevent him from competing in most sports. I saw this young man throughout the day, having the time of his life, being social, etc. His on mat experience, although not harmful to him, was not very fruitful either. Each competitor he faced, treated him with respect and made no attempt to harm him, but certainly they were not letting him win either. Doing so, would result in a lower placement in the standings for them and their team.
With four mats and several hundred matches going on Saturday, I just happened to find myself watching the match between this young man and Daric Johnson. One would have to be paying attention to see what was taking place. Daric kept the boy engaged and the match going for the full time allotment. In the end, the other boy's hand was raised in victory and Daric Johnson lost the match, dropping in the standings.
Now I’m pretty sure Daric Johnson and Coach Kidwell did not leave for Canada from Bath, Maine, to lose, but yet they saw it fit to do so. This resulted in the other boy feeling like he belonged in the sport and gave him a chance to talk about his big win when he gets back home.
I felt it worthwhile to bring this to your attention. I see your school motto is to “be the best possible you.” From the act of compassion I saw on Saturday, these gentlemen are doing just that.
Thank you, Shawn Coughlan