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Home - A World full of Winners - and losers

  A World full of Winners - and losers

November 28, 2009

To be ”lagom” or to be the best
Itīs typically Swedish to be “lagom”, a word that cannot be translated to any other language, but means something like “to be in between”. Itīs very Swedish not to be bad, but on the other hand, not too good either. We are supposed to be “lagom” and that also goes for Swedish athletes. Despite the “lagom” syndrome, in our sports history we can find several winners, athletes who let nothing stand in the way for their ambitions to succeed. However, there are not too many of them and they are often considered odd, even excentric, and no wonder. If they were like the rest of us, they wouldnīt have the unique quality that makes them one of a kind.

Winners work hard
No one can become a winner in the world of athletics without hard work. Winners are ready to practise harder and do more sacrifices then their competitors in their ambition to be the best. That is why alpine star Ingemar Stenmark day out and day in raced down the hills in Tärnaby, until someone put out the lights in the slope. Thatīs why tennis champion Björn Borg hit balls against his parents garage door until someone grabbed the racket out of his hands, and that was why skier Gunde Svan gave up everything that constitutes a normal life in his strive to be the worldīs greatest skier. Stenmark was once, after a race he won, asked if it wasnīt pure luck that gave him the victory. He answered “Isnīt it remarkable? The more I practice, the more luck I seem to have”.
In basketball, we someday maybe can add Jonas Jerebko to that list. He has not yet reached international stardom compared to the ones mentioned, but his determination and willingness to work hard has led him to NBA as first Swede ever and proven himself a winner.

The instinct is in our genes
Most of us have at some time won some kind of competition, big or small, and experienced the sweetness of victory. The great feeling that makes the blood rush in the veins. We won. We beat them all. The will to win is in our genes, even if it is not evenly distributed among individuals. In evolution, it has always been a question of survival of the fittest. Male animals compete with others in order to become the one that get the chance to mate. For generations, it has always been a part of our heritage and will always be. The bad news for the majority is that for every winner there are thousands of losers. The good news is; if more individuals try to be winners, competition will be even harder, and the best will become even better.

The importance of confidence
Winners always have great belief in themselves and their ability. They have tons of confidence and are often willing to let the whole know it. If you have that degree of confidence, much is of course already won. Itīs not surprising that president Obama has become famous for his mantra “yes we can”. Itīs a way for him to build up his self-confidence and to assure others that he is capable. To be self-assured and have a great confidence is an import asset in a competitive environment, but sometimes things go wrong. When the Swedish womenīs team lost the quarterfinal in the European Championships in football this summer, they on forehand seemed very confident about winning the match, and told everyone so. The problem was, most of the statements before the game were made about the lacking ability of the opposing team. It is seldom good tactics to project oneīs own uncertainty onto others.

There are too few of them
Looking around in the Swedish basketball community, I see very few individuals with the right winnerīs instinct and that particular hunger to be or become the best. That goes for players as well as coaches. It does not mean they donīt exist, but we need more of them.
What I see is many gifted players who are not willing to submit to the conditions that could take them to the top level. I see many coaches, on both national and international level that are happy if they win, but not willing to try everything to get there. I see a lot of coaches who love the game and everything around it, but what is the use of being liked, skilled and a good leader, if you donīt do everything in your power to win? Is not that what top athletics is about?

The comfort zone
The willingness to take risks in order to go all the way is common to all winners. To take a chance with the risk of losing it all. Thatīs what it is about. That is what separates winners from the rest. The player who has the guts to take the last shot in the final seconds of the decisive game is a potential winner. A player that leaves the shot to someone else is not. A coach who does not dare to throw in a zone if that is the only way to win, even if the team has not practiced zone defense for a single minute, is not willing to risk it all to win. He prefers to stay in the comfort zone. The problem is; if he stays there, defeat is inevitable. If he dares to risk it all, even if he is terrified, there is possibility to win. Is it really such a difficult choice?

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