Some call Alex Ferguson the greatest coach in history. Never heard of him? That is because you are not a soccer fan; over 26 seasons, Alex Ferguson coached Manchester United to 13 English League titles and 25 other domestic and international trophies. One aspect of Ferguson’s coaching philosophy: Recruit “bad losers.” Not players who are rude or lacking in manner but rather players who cannot stand to lose, who hate to lose, to whom losing galls, sticks in their gut, motivates to the extreme: “over the years, this attitude became contagious—players didn’t accept teammates not giving it their all.” (Harvard Business Review, October 2013, Ferguson’s Formula)
In his autobiography “Rafa,”tennis great Rafael Nadal touches the same theme, the intense aversion to losing that drives winners. Upon losing a match at the age of 10, he writes “all the fun I had then can’t make up for the pain I’m feeling right now. I never want to feel this way again.” After his 2007 loss to Federer, Rafael was so upset about his loss, he sat in tears on the floor of the Wimbledon locker shower for thirty minutes with water pouring down on his head. Like every good “bad loser” Rafael used that memory of defeat as motivation to propel him onward, to train harder, focus clearer and come back to win Wimbledon in 2008.
“You must never be satisfied with losing. You must get angry, terribly angry, about losing. But the mark of the good loser is that he takes his anger out on himself and not his victorious opponents or on his teammates.” — Richard Milhous Nixon; 1913–1994, 37th U.S. President
“Above anything else, I hate to lose.” — Jackie Robinson; 1919-1972, first black man to play Major League Baseball
“I hate to lose more than I love to win.” — Jimmy Connors; 1952–, winner of five U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, and the Australian Open