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The Champion Mentality – Can it be developed?

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I remember when I was a kid during my Little league baseball days, there were certain kids who during the last inning, will deliver the winning hit just when the team is already down by a run and loaded with bases that had two outs. These were the kids with below the highest batting averages but among the top 4 of the league. In a competition like sports, some players are just gifted with making the critical putt, hitting the clutch shot or kicking the last second field goal. Among basketball legends, Michael Jordan certainly has the gift while Karl Malone and John Stockton don’t have it. In the lat 90s, in the two Finals series between the Bulls and the Jazz, one team can’t avoid winning while the other is always destined to be the second best.

While I grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, I had a taste of how to be a master of being second best. Every year the Seminoles will field their football team that aimed to win the national championship. Every year their field goal versus the Hurricanes or their last minute touchdown pass versus Notre Dame will fall short. Or sometimes a winning drive by the Gators will destroy their games for the entire season. Not until 1993, with a miraculous win against Nebraska, I had thought Bobby Bowden won hands down in history as the NCAA coach that did not win a game at all. Even after they won the national championship, their losses against Oklahoma and Tennessee have left doubt in people’s minds if Coach Bowden had any capabilities at all in winning a season. What made the 1993 and 2000 championship teams different? It was Peter Warrick and Charlie Ward (and some help from their teammates), in addition to their hardworking talents was their championship mentality that says, they will not be defeated especially for the big one.

The baseball team of Florida State is another example on how to be in second place. They have been to the College World series 17 times and they never won a single championship. You don’t need a stats person to find out their batting average. There must be something in the Tallahassee waters that makes their team lose when it counts even after they have dominated some seasons.

Having a second place mindset is contagious. My very own high school career went the same way. We took a 11-0 record in the football state championship game. We lost 7-3 after losing a late touchdown that was taken away due to a ghostly illegal forward pass penalty. I’m still wondering if our referee knew we were predestined to be second place. Several months later, I was second place again in the state championships for wrestling. Our team won the championship, so it appeared that the second place position was destined just for me.

How does a person get over his inability to top the big game? It starts by taking steps to becoming a contender for the first place. Work hard to develop your skills so that you will be among the top in the competition. Beyond that, you must have more than an apparent determination not to lose.