Home » DSB Analysts' Articles, Featured, Headline

What Winners Are Made Of

13 November 2012 Kevin Curtis 18 Comments

BYU celebrates a recent bowl win (BYU photo).

For BYU sports fans, this is a great time of year.

The football team still has three games to play, including another bowl game in sunny San Diego. The basketball team looks fast, athletic and able to score at will.

In addition, the women’s soccer team is drawing record crowds on its way to a No. 2 national ranking and tournament play at home.

The women’s volleyball team is nationally ranked–again! The men’s cross country team is headed to the NCAA again as well. And let’s not forget BYU’s rugby team capturing the 2012 national championship!

I love sports and winning is always a lot of fun.

Perhaps the biggest misconception among some fans is that winning is easy. Winning is never as easy as it looks at times, regardless of the scoreboard. The simple truth is winning happens long before the game is ever played. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 20:10).

The legendary Lavell Edwards use to say that everyone wants to win, but few have the will to prepare to win. Bronco Mendenhall phrases it as a “mindset” and going from “good to great.” Dave Rose calls it “mental toughness.”

The difference between winning and losing is as frail as a cracker–just ask previously-ranked No. 1 Alabama.

Here’s what I’ve come up with and, while it’s certainly not a comprehensive examination of the difference between wins and losses, it does cover the basic principles of winning and and losing.

Winners believe in each other while losers make excuses and blame losses on referees, field conditions, weather and/or my favorite:  the crowd. Winners find ways to win. They don’t care about who gets credit as long as at the end of the game, a “W” is posted next to their team.

Losers love drawing attention to themselves when they do win, but point fingers at everything but their own preparation and belief systems when they lose. Losers look for excuses, in fact they need excuses because their very self-esteem is tied to what others think and say about them. Winners draw attention to those around them who were part of the team’s success because they recognize the very nature of a team requires a practice squad, coaches, trainers and other supporters in the great cause of being a champion.

Winners have exhaustive workouts and preparations. Losers think talent is enough, especially their own. Winners study film, not only of the other team, but also of themselves, with an appetite to improve and become better.  Winners leave no stone unturned–they know their opponent as well as they know themselves.

Losers only know themselves, especially if a mirror can reveal their good-looking image, while winners only want mirrors that reveal what can be improved upon from within, all the while honing their already amazing skills and athleticism. Whether it be in sports or another profession, winners have grueling and repetitive workout sessions. In the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, those who became exceptional and made it to the professional were found to have at least 10,000 hours of perfecting their craft, usually by the age of 18.

Winners make everyone around them better. Losers are jealous of the success of others, thinking success only happens if they get the glory, snipping and clipping at the knees of those that succeed, in effort to make themselves feel better about what they lack. (This would be a good time for certain critics to look deep within, if that is at all possible). Winners do not see a lack of talent and ability around them, but only tremendous possibilities of what might be and not what isn’t.

Winners love the game and/or the thing they’re doing.  Losers take winning (and its preparations) for granted, thinking it drama-less, routine and worse–expected. Show me a team that thinks itself entitled to win because of some endowment from the gods and I’ll bet the house that that team will lose their very next game against a worthy opponent.

In short, God does not pick winners and losers, either in sports or in life. Winners choose winning and all that comes before the game while losers only want the part after the victory, being adored of men. At this point, let’s not think that winners do not envision victory–of course they do–but they have a greater capacity to envision the details and art of their craft, visualizing the x’s and o’s, if you will, rather than the kind of touchdown celebration they’ve choreographed.

Winners do not see a loss as some personal failure as much as a personal and collective opportunity to go back to the film room and find the problem, fix it and move ahead in a renewed effort. Losers see a loss as gravity pulling them down a hill, rolling and crashing to the bottom. Winners see heaven as a journey, losers see hell as a destination. Winners do not care about the feelings of the losing team, but rather a healthy respect for their willingness to enter the arena. Winners have confidence, losers have a sense of false bravado.

Winners do not shrink or cave under pressure–indeed they rise to the occasion–sensing the moment of victory and capitalizing on their collective opportunity. Losers crumble and fumble away the opportunity because they got to that point through some process of manipulation or cutting corners while winners are in love with the opportunity, and they can see the beauty of their preparations and hence seize the day.

Losers shrink under the rants and raves of the opposition. Winners channel the negative energy to their advantage and are able to “hold to the rod in the midst of darkness.” Where losers are filled with the fear of men, winners have no fear–for their perfect preparations know no fear.

Winners have prepared long arduous hours for this victory and have earned the right to be there. Losers feel entitled because of some source that is outside of themselves, whether it be their name, their logo, their branding, their family history or because of some religious or governmental affiliation. Winners grab the victory, and/or take it away from the opposition. Losers seemingly give victories away, especially when there are internal divisions within the team, always looking back at what could have been.

One of my favorite quotes by Anonymous is, “You and you are in an argument, and you are winning.” Choose a side and that’s the truth. If a person needs a reason to fail, then most assuredly they will fail. All one needs to do is reach out into the thin air and a reason will easily present itself. One doesn’t even need to work for an excuse to fail, because plenty of friends and family will offer them freely.

Choosing to win is a completely different mindset and work ethic than losing. Winning is painful and often lonely. Fans think that winners are clothed in glory and the praises of men, and while that’s true to the masses ala celebrations, it’s completely false in private. In their quiet chambers, winners are planning, plotting and scheming to win. Winners are going through grueling physical workouts as well as hours and hours of personal study for their craft and/or sport.

So you think you want to win? Consider the above as truth times ten, as there is no easy or favored path to winning. Some have paid the required price and yet have fallen short of their cherished goal of symbolic tingling brass.

Winning often comes at a price similar to the sacrifice ancient gladiators would make. “Shadows and dust. In the end we are all shadows and dust.”

 –Kevin Curtis is an educator and has coached a number of sports at the high school and junior college levels. He played football at San Jose State under legendary coach Jack Elway. He graduated from BYU with a degree in Communications and has written articles for a number of publications.

Welcome to the Deep Shades of Blue Community!


  • El Jefe said:

    I think Kevin Curtis and Charlie Sheen have a difference in opinion of “winning.” Not quite sure who I side with. Anyways, I believe for the most part BYU’s football team is made up of winners. But when matched against a great team, how do we achieve greatness?

  • BigCougar said:

    “Winners have prepared long arduous hours for this victory and have earned the right to be there…Losers seemingly give victories away, especially when there are internal divisions within the team”

    Awww nuts. I knew there was a catch.

  • Bryan Taylor said:

    That was a long epistle. I’m wondering when the next article in the series is coming out after that recruiting article. This article was good, but just general information most of us already know. I’m looking for specifics on how BYU can regain national prominence in terms of beating teams with winning records and ranked opponents.

  • Brett Richins said:


    Working on it. It’ll be up in the next 24 hours…

  • Bryan Taylor said:

    Thanks Brett, that is what makes this site so good is the frankness and straight forwardness of your articles. Kevin is doing a great job a well. Many things can be applied from this article he wrote both on a team and sports level and individually and personally.

  • JT said:

    I, for one, needed this pep talk during my work day today. Thanks Kevin.

  • SH said:

    Has anyone else noticed that the Women’s Soccer National Championship game is scheduled to occur on a Sunday?

  • terene said:

    GREAT Job Kevin !
    looking forward to reading more.

  • Ken said:

    “The difference between winners and losers is as frail as a cracker”??????????? That particular phrase is just bad, in large part just because it doesn’t actually make sense and the word frail is not only being misused, but not an appropriate word to try to modify the word “difference”. How can a difference be frail? And how is a cracker frail?

    More substantively, I get what you’re trying to say, but found it a bit touchy, feely and overdone. I’m not sure that I agree that you’ve accurately touched on the primary differences between “winners” and “losers”. I think it’s a false dichotomy for one. I think we all fall into both the winners and losers category at various times and the reasons are myriad and not all attributable to ourselves.

  • Lew Craig said:

    The thing I like about what Kevin wrote is the realization that no team is going to win all the time. I like his take on what a winner does after suffering a loss. I feel that is a strength of Bronco and all of the BYU coaches. I want to scream when I hear “fan” crying for Bronco’s head after the first loss of each season. Of course, Bronco’s not perfect, but he has a heck of a winning record and has the attitude Kevin is talking about. I read an article this morning about Whittingham’s take on Utah’s season. Some BYU fans won’t like this, but Whittingham is a winner. He is evaluating where Utah is towards the end of a tough season and will make adjustments. It may take him a couple of years, but he’ll get it done. I just hope we beat his team next year.

    One of my favorite seasons of BYU sports was when the basketball team won one game. I listened intently to the post games shows to see what the team’s attitude was. On the radio it was always positive and hopeful. Those guys kept coming out and kept competing. No one quit the team. I had great respect for them and thought they were winners (but I’m weird).

    I once talked to a prominent BYU coach. He attended a BYU football game the fall after we won the national championship. The Cougars had lost an away game the week before. As Robbie Bosco came on to the field, some “fan” stood and booed him. The coach told me, “Here’s a kid who won a national championship on one leg and you are going to boo him after one loss? I couldn’t stand it. I had to leave.” Bosco is a winner. The coach I talked to was a winner. Bronco is a winner. The “fan” who booed wasn’t.

  • football junkie said:

    Winners… only need to point to the scoreboard! Losers, glory in Statistics.

  • Kasie ornelas said:

    I loved it and felt that the article gave a lot of great insight on winners and losers and it reflected a good mind from the word of god. A great perspective and highly influenced by experience, honesty and truth. Great job

    -kasie Ornelas (Lisa’s daughter)

    My mom says “great job my brother, not only coach Curtis but an insightful journalist as well.” -Lisa Hulse

  • FL Cosmo said:

    “How can a difference be frail? And how is a cracker frail?

    More substantively, I get what you’re trying to say, but found it a bit touchy, feely and overdone.”

    Dude, Ken. Come on now. Did you just finish grading a stack of English papers before this? LOL.

  • J Huckvale said:

    Winning, defined, to me is maximizing potential towards achieving your goal. This means putting down your pride, re-evaluating your approach, seeking out constructive criticism, having the wisdom to know when to listen and when to ignore your naysayers.

    Bronco has had an incredible amount of triumphs at BYU. However, his teams have fallen way below their potential. Year after year, patterns continue to rear their ugly heads followed by the same excuses from Bronco. The problems in the BYU football program in Mendenhalls’ tenure have very little to do with a lack of talent. No, his problems are fixable from a mindframe point of view. Aside from W-L records, sometimes its better to evaluate what you COULD have done based on potential.

    That, to me, is what separates winners from losers. As of now, Bronco Mendenhall is far from a “winner” in my book.

  • FL Cosmo said:

    Brett, what was all that 24 hours talk?

  • Coach K (author) said:

    Ken, good point on my cracker analogy. I’ll clean it up next time. I’m glad you saw to the point.

    Kasie, thanks for sharing and tell your mom I love her.

  • SR Burton said:

    I’m really wondering about how a few of you are able to judge potential talent. Maybe from the player coming out of high school football? It’s a big jump from HS to college. Do you view our receivers as having a wealth of talent? I would definitely give Hoffman the credit he deserves, but I wouldn’t trade any of the rest for Collie or Pitta or many of the other greats BYU has had. I could probably find 50 defensive backfields in the country with more speed than BYU has. They survive by playing their assignments and working as a cohesive unit. We don’t even need to go to the offensive line do we. Young and inexperienced, injured. Running backs? Great potential for years to come in Williams, but just beginning his future potential and living up to it. Really, you don’t think a cracker is fragile? Try snapping it with your two little fingers. Sorry, I think BYU gets the most out of their talent, because compared to the SEC and the like they don’t get the talent.

  • Geoff said:

    Bronco redefines success as developing young men; what happens on the football field (perennially losing games that we need to win) as being secondary to his primary purpose of character development. Has he considered the novelty of both approaches; building character and also beating teams other than cupcakes?
    And so, if character development is your primary purpose, how can you be judged on anything but that? In Bronco’s world, losing to BSU, Utah, OSU and ND does not compare to a young man’s improvement.
    Win the big games Bronco, because redefining your primary purpose as something other than winning makes you sound like a self-satisfied loser.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

+ nine = 10