Of the 50 to 60 youth sports teams I have coached over the years, a handful made it to the championship game and won it all; several fell short in the finals or semifinals; one team won only one game; and another didn’t win a single game. You might assume that I consider those winning seasons to be my most successful ones, and in one sense (the “winning” sense), you would be right.
A youth athletic team’s win-loss record, however, is only one of many ways to judge the effectiveness of the team’s coach. Indeed, I regard the season where my team won just one game as one of my most successful seasons overall. This was in 1995, when I was the 27-year-old coach of a fifth-grade basketball team at Derby Academy in Hingham,
Mass. Even though that team of unathletic beginners kept on losing, the players gave their all at every practice, showed dramatic improvement in their skills, had a lot of fun playing with each other and arrived at each game believing they had a chance to win. We did get our lone victory — finally — on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the season’s last game, and that one win solidified lifelong lessons for those boys. I’m still proud of that season because I know that I coached well and achieved many important goals (though most of the “winning” goals proved to be out of our reach). The team didn’t receive a big plaque at the winter awards banquet and we weren’t highlighted in the school’s spring magazine, because our win-loss record was pitiful. But our record didn’t tell the whole story of our season — in fact, it told hardly any of the story.