Fencing pro Rafael gives an insight into why losing is just as valuable an experience as winning
The risk of not losing
Imagine the scene. You are - let's say - 10, as I was when I went on my first PGL School holiday trip to PGL Caythorpe in Lincolnshire.
You and your schoolmates go out to the climbing tower, everyone stands at the bottom, shouting and encouraging you to go faster, be better, climb higher, reach further, go this way, that way and so on. Naturally you freeze. You don't know what to do next so you don't do anything at all. You finish the session without having taken any risks and without having learned anything.
Thankfully this has never happened to me but similar behaviour quite often can be seen when I'm competing in youth fencing tournaments. Some coaches and parents are so desperate for their child to win that they unintentionally create a situation that makes it more likely that they will lose. For me a parent-to-athlete relationship works much better if it is one based on support, not competitiveness.
It is also beneficial if the athlete feels they can explore what lies beyond the boundaries of their experience, take risks, develop strategies, and to take every sporting moment - whether good, bad or mediocre - and benefit from it. Another more difficult but very useful skill is to be able to receive a 'badly wrapped gift’ in the form of, perhaps, a bad result and learn and develop from it instead of throwing it away just because you feel embarrassed or hurt.
As my coach Pawel Osmanski at Fencers Club London says, "Remember that when you lose, nothing happens"; this is so true and I think if you can develop this kind of mindset: embracing losing instead of hating it, then in whatever you do you will be able to deal with any kind of situation and have a greater sense of self-confidence, knowing that you have everything you need to deal with whatever comes your way.
By Rafael Rhys Pollitt