Does Losing Hurt Worse?
We’ve reached that time of year.
With championship games being contested on both the high school
and college levels, the emotions run harder and deeper for male and
female players alike. Which may not be a bad thing.
The reason that these season-ending losses, whether they come in
the early rounds of the playoffs or in the championship game, hurt
so much is because the players competing care so much. If losses
didn’t hurt, and championships didn’t feel so good, why
bother putting in all the blood and sweat. Skip the heartbreak and
spare the tears.
But players do bust their humps to win, and do care about their
teammates, and do want to feel that emotional high of achievement.
So they leave themselves open to the hurt that could come from
falling short of the goal.
I was reminded of all this once again last weekend at the NCAA
Women’s Division II and III Championships, hosted by Adelphi
University in Garden City, N.Y. Among the eight teams that were
there, only two – eventual champs Adelphi and Gettysburg
– were spared the pain of losing their final game.
The six others had to deal with the heartbreak that comes from
hearing the final horn and knowing that the dream you have been
chasing for months will not happen. There were tears. Plenty of
In some cases, players will be comforted in knowing that they can
try again next year. But in the case of seniors, the pain of loss
is heightened by knowing there won’t be another chance. Their
high school or college career has come to a close.
It’s usually when I find myself in this environment that
I’m reminded of the saying "losing hurts worse than winning
feels good." Many don’t agree with that statement. They claim
that the thrill of victory easily matches, or surpasses, the
agony of defeat. And they may be right.
All I know is that seeing the pain of athletes who have given
their all and fallen short, seeing them in the midst of this raw,
emotional upheaval, as they try to cope with the hurt and
disappointment, always makes me feel bad too. I feel that their
loss has also become my loss.
And yet, when watching the victors celebrating, I rarely feel that
unbridled joy that they are enjoying. I may be happy for them, but
it's not the same.
So, maybe losing does hurt worse.