How you respond after you win and lose can be most revealing about who you really are. I always look forward to viewing the exchanges between winners and losers after any athletic competition. How a person reacts to winning and losing a game is crucial to illuminating how he or she probably will act in other spaces outside of athletics. For parents of middle and high school student-athletes, help to support the efforts of coaches in imparting the importance of sportsmanship. As a former student-athlete and one who continues to participate in intramural athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I know how difficult it can be to lose. Frankly, I hate losing. This is why I compete so hard. I have learned, however, that anyone who defeats me deserves my wholehearted congratulations. It does not take much to shake the winners’ hands and tell the winners, “Good game.” There’s nothing like battling one another with such zeal and then evincing good sportsmanship after the game is over. While sports may not be valued by everyone like they should be, they do teach us the how vital sportsmanship is not only on the courts and fields of play but also in all areas of life.

Trash talking when you win a game is such an ugly phenomenon. You won—don’t gloat! When you lose, don’t try to start a fight. You just have to accept that you lost. Just because you won one game, no matter how prominent of a game it is, does not mean that you should ever feel it proper to rub the pain of defeat in your opponents’ faces.

As an athlete, I understand how in the heat of competition things can get rather intense. Athletes, however, have to learn that their intensity needs to be held in check. There’s never a need for actions on a court or field to turn into a violation of criminal law. Law enforcement should never have to step in to resolve a fight on a court or field. When this happens, this means that athletes are simply out of control. It’s always essential to be in control. That is, you should be in control of those things you can control. You can control your attitude and behavior.

Let’s really start applying the lessons of sportsmanship that we get from sports. Our interactions with one another should reflect that we understand and value sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is about giving credit where credit is due, and it’s about thanking those who you have defeated for being willing to express their congratulations to you. Know how to win and know how to lose. Let’s go a little further: Know how to win and lose gracefully.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sometimes You’re Going to Finish in Second Place

Recently, my Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. This game caused me to reflect on how sometimes people do things better than others. It’s just a fact. You can be great and others can still do things better than you. It’s vital to understand that you are not going to come in first place at everything. The Steelers’ defeat in the Super Bowl also made me think about how important it is to recognize how thankful you should be to be in second place. In most situations, second place is not an awful place to be in at all. For example, many other teams in the National Football League (NFL) didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. They would have loved to have had an opportunity to be in the game. The Steelers finished in second place overall but first place in the American Football Conference (AFC). The Steelers are the reigning AFC Champions! You should not overlook the greatness in your second place to someone else on certain aspects in life. We all come in second place to someone on something. There’s no need to become frustrated with this or to try to fight against it.

When someone can do something better than you, acknowledge that he or she can. People will admire you for recognizing what others can do better than you. I’m not suggesting for you to simply desire to come in second place all of the time—not at all! Even if you don’t try to come in first place at something, you will because some aspect of your life is far greater than that same aspect in others’ lives. You can do something that’s better than others. You simply have to acknowledge, discover, and embrace your first place things.

You don’t have to become envious of those people who finish ahead of you. When you do the best you can do, learn to accept this. Always strive to improve yourself but know that with even all of the striving to become better in the world someone is still going to be better than you in something. You’re not a failure when you finish in second place. Sometimes second place is where you need to be to help you to grow to where you should be in not only that specific area where you finished in second place, but also to buttress and burgeon other areas of your life that don’t even qualify to finish in second place to anyone.

When you come in second place, you don’t have to let us know that you’re in second place. Don’t let your actions communicate that you’re saying, “I know you’re better than me at this, but I’m in second place to you and please know that!” The person in first place does not need to see and/or hear you communicate this. The first place person will simply see that there’s something larger going on with you and something larger wrong with you that is causing you to act in such a way.

I come in second place to many people on many things but I don’t envy them. I have a firm understanding that I cannot do everything, be everything, know everything, and control everything. Life will be much more enjoyable when more people learn that there’s always going to be someone better than them at something. I might not have offered any real novel knowledge in this piece, but what this piece does is call all of us to improve, learn, know, do, be, and control the things we can and don’t worry about those things that we cannot. Don’t live your life chasing and concerned about finishing in first place in areas of life you already know you cannot.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison