Winning Versus Learning


Make no mistake about it, I like winning just as much as anyone. If we are keeping score, I want to have more than you. Softball, cards or pool I want to win.


Which leads me to ponder on a very fundamental question. What is the highest priority, winning, learning or both? 


I’ve coached long enough to know that you can learn things from a loss. You can learn things when you play poorly and win and you can learn things when you play great and win.


We all know which of these options we all wish we could experience most often but here is the reality. Sometimes you have to decide during the game if you are willing to lose to learn.


Are you willing to let pitcher work on a struggling pitch so that they can improve or are you going to go back to her money pitch over and over to increase your chances of winning that particular game?


Are you willing to allow a hitter to swing away, or a base runner attempt to steal, or have a struggling catcher stay behind the plate to gain valuable experience.


Now when you are talking about the highest levels of the game, I think it is reasonable to expect winning to be the highest priority. Learning is still important but the idea of giving away a game to allow a player to learn valuable lessons is less likely to happen.


But how about younger ages? Should we, as coaches, be more willing to lose a game to help a player grow?


Can you do both? I believe you can learn and win. It’s just not going to equate to winning each individual game. You are probably going to lose a single game every once in a while, but what you gain overall is a team that wins big when it counts the most. Don’t let the fear of losing one game keep you from winning a bunch of others. And absolutely, remember, that if the early-season loss helps you learn something that helps you win the LAST game of the year, it was a good investment.


About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.