What Is This "Madness"?: Losing and Still Winning Through Sports

What Is This "Madness"?: Losing and Still Winning Through Sports Recently, basketball fans have been enjoying one of the most exciting events of the year, the NCAA Basketball Tournament. For the majority of us sports fans, it’s been an unproductive time as our four TV’s and two computers simultaneously showcase all the madness for us live.

This annual post-season, one-game, winner-takes-all competition is a place that many athletes only dream of reaching. The distinction of receiving an invitation is only for those select few who either carried a good enough record from the regular season or who received automatic bids by winning their respective conference tournaments.

To put into terms just how difficult it is to qualify for this tournament, consider this:

  • The NCAA is made up of 351 programs Division 1 men’s basketball programs. On average, each team has about 12 eligible players. This means there are only 4,212 total athletes playing basketball at the Division 1 level!
  • The NCAA Tournament grants bids to only 68 of these teams each year; that allows only 816 players in ALL OF DIVISION 1 MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL to even contend for the national championship!
  • So in reality, out of those 4,212 players, only 12 will have the opportunity to cut down the nets and hoist up the championship trophy each year. 

You may be thinking, “How does all of this relate to our recreational leagues and athletes?” In 2013, there were an estimated 35 million recreation level athletes in the U.S. (Michigan State Survey). Assuming all recreation leagues have an end of the season tournament, statistics show that approximately 99% of young athletes (or 34,650,000 athletes) would end their season with a loss. The majority of athletes around the world compete to become that winning 1%, but reality tells us that more than likely that they will fall into the 99%.

This begs the question to be asked – as parents and coaches, are we correctly managing our expectations as well as those of our athletes? Are we making our youth feel like success solely lies in victory?

When we have tunnel vision that is honed in solely on wins and losses, we are doing an injustice to our youth by not valuing the process, the growth, and the friendships they’ve made throughout a season. There simply is no rationale behind disregarding some of the most important parts of an athlete’s development – the intangibles.

That’s why at Upward Sports we implement our exclusive 360 Progression, which promotes the development of the total athlete – mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially. Much of today’s youth sports don’t value the concept of complete growth within our athletes and focus strictly on their athletic short-term gains instead of long-term development. This is unfortunate because it is this long-term development that builds them into well-rounded individuals with strong values and character in the game and in life.

But, back to the NCAA Tournament. What does it mean for the other 4,200 athletes in Division 1 men’s college basketball who don’t end up receiving a championship ring? Does losing make them failures? Absolutely not.

Every year there are players from the collegiate game that get selected to play at the professional level, whether it’s the NBA or internationally; and we can assure you at no point are the only 12 that get to move on are those that win the NCAA Tournament. In fact, oftentimes there may not even be a future “pro” on the winning squad.

More importantly, every one of these athletes will continue on and have the opportunity to make a great impact on society in countless ways besides playing basketball. Regardless of the profession they choose, basketball isn’t the end game for these athletes, and it won’t be for our youth as we allow them to grow into young men and women of faith and character.

Just to be able to compete at a high level in sports requires a great amount of effort, energy, and dedication. A lot of the time, it comes down to what abilities God has given us, and then how hard we work to maximize our potential. He has blessed each of us with particular attributes and asked us to utilize them to bring others to know Him.

To put it simply, don’t let losing deter your athlete from seeing the bigger picture. Oftentimes a door closing, even if it means moving on from our personal goals, is actually God opening another and calling us to listen to His plan.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:23-24 - Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

So as you go through this tournament season, make sure your athletes know that effort, heart, passion, and sportsmanship are the true measures of success in God’s eyes. True victory lies with Him not with the tournament trophy.

That’s why at Upward Sports we want you to remind your young athlete that when they play, to Play With Purpose!


We are always interested in knowing how your young athlete did this past season! If you have a story you wish to share, we would love to hear it.

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