Winning might not be everything, but it is an integral part of the athletics experience. After all, there’s always going to be a winner or a loser in the end. How do you put into perspective something that is so fundamental to the experience for student-athletes? Parker’s exceptional coaches have mastered the craft of practicing with purpose and allowing the winning to take care of itself.
“Winning is the byproduct of working hard,” says Dave Glassey, who has been coaching baseball at Parker for close to four decades. “You learn from both winning and losing.”
Glassey says baseball is one sport where you will fail more often than you succeed. Even the best hitters are only successful one out of three times. He says, “It’s how you deal with those failures that really is going to mark you as a person. That isn’t just in baseball but in everything you do.”
Athletics is an important facet of not only the academic experience but of life, teaching discipline, teamwork, respect, commitment, perseverance, and taking responsibility for one’s own actions. But when winning is emphasized above all else, those lessons can be lost.
“Sometimes when winning is the only thing that’s emphasized, then you get more of the thing you don’t want,” says Glassey.
This is why Parker coaches teach their student-athletes to work hard in preparation for the competition and let winning serve as the byproduct of their hard work. This sentiment is echoed by nearly all of Parker’s many coaches. No matter the sport, how you prepare in practice is how you’ll perform on the field, on the court, in the sand, or on the water.
“I coach my players to focus on the process instead of results. Don’t focus on the wins, focus on what you’re doing to get those wins,” says Audra Dent, head coach of girls volleyball.
This idea of “process versus results” is important in athletics -- whether it be middle school, high school, or college level. And it is true of all sports, from team-oriented sports like volleyball, football, and basketball, to more individual sports like track and field and sailing.
For Dent, this means teaching her players to be good teammates to each other and applying the same techniques over and over again during practice, so that when her team takes the court, they are ready for anything.
"I compare it to getting into the college they want to get into, or the job they eventually want to get,” says Dent. “If you’re focused on the process and you’re taking the right steps, then the desired result will come eventually. It might not come right away when you want it -- just like you won’t win every game -- but you’ll get the desired result eventually.”
Chris McGrath, who leads Parker’s sailing team, says this process-oriented mentality is especially important in his sport.
“Sailing is not a result-oriented sport. It’s a process- and awareness-oriented sport. If you can hone your process and your awareness through experience, commitment, practice, dedication, and exposure to multiple situations, winning is a happy byproduct,” McGrath says.
Even as student-athletes focus on the process of playing their sport well, winning is usually in the back of their minds. Parker coaches do not lose sight of this.
“Every game is the most important game,” says Matt Morrison ‘05, Head Coach of Parker football. “It’s not who you play but how you play. The team that plays harder and smarter is the team that wins.”
But Morrison concedes that losing is beneficial to the process, as well. “You go through the most growth when you don’t win,” he says.
Boys Volleyball Coach John Herman, who has been with Parker for nearly three decades, agrees.
“I just want our team to grow as much as possible individually on and off the court. I encourage our kids to make errors. I always say, ‘If you’re not making errors you’re not learning fast enough,’” says Herman.
Herman has led more than a dozen teams to CIF Championships throughout the years, just like Boys Basketball Coach Jim Tomey has with his teams.
“I’m used to winning,” says Tomey, “But I understand that the byproduct of winning is how you go about doing things on a daily basis. If you are not attending to the important priorities for the team and for the individuals involved, you won't win.”