September 19, 2012 • Huddle Up

Teach players to lose with pride

Considering how much the social media world loves inspirational quotes, here’s a good one to start this discussion:

“I never thought about losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.” —Muhammad Ali

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not lose with pride Sunday. In the NFL, there are times when a game is over even though the clock doesn’t read 0:00. When a team lines up in the “Victory” formation, it’s over. As the defense, you don’t go for linemen’s knees, you don’t fly over the top trying to kill the quarterback — you accept you weren’t good enough that day and move on with grace and dignity.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when you poured yourself into a week of preparation, when you had a huge lead and when you appear headed for your first defeat of the season. But, losing with pride says a lot more about a squad than players and coaches convincing themselves they are playing to the final whistle even when player safety is at risk.

Sure, there was an instance this weekend when a game appeared over and it wasn’t. In New England, the Patriots seemingly had lost to Arizona but the difference here is that the Cardinals could not run the clock down to zero. The team was forced to keep trying for yards, which ended up resulting in a fumble.

In New York, the situation was the exact opposite. Tampa had no chance unless the center-quarterback exchange was botched, which is something the defense cannot control by dive-bombing at players’ knees.

The problem is you see this all the time in athletics. A basketball team is up 10 points with five seconds remaining and continues to foul. A soccer team down a couple goals with 10 seconds remaining commits egregious fouls in an attempt to get the ball back.

As a coach, it’s your job to teach your players how to push to the final whistle without breaking the rules or risking an unsuspecting player’s health. There is a difference between “never quitting” and “losing with pride.”

What are your thoughts? Were you OK with how Tampa handled the final seconds of the game Sunday? How do you coach your players in the waning seconds of a game where defeat is certain? Post your comments below and let’s get a conversation going.

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