Last week my school sent a team of students to compete in an inter-school action song competition. For those who are unfamiliar with action songs, think Glee, but for nine-year-olds. Some fellow teachers and I had trained them a couple of weeks prior to the competition, so it was only right that we were the ones to bring them to the competition.
Long story short, we lost the competition. A lot of the kids were disappointed, but none more so than this one student whom I shall dub here as Siti. Siti kept saying sorry to me that they lost the competition. Even before they performed, she expressed her grievances to me, saying that she was afraid that they might lose. I gave her the whole “winning or losing is not important; what’s important is that you try your best and have fun” speech, but she wasn’t convinced. She had high expectations where results were concerned. Her only response was, “Mister ni cakap benda sama ngan Ayah saya cakap.” I told her, “ya la, pasai betoi la Ayah kamu pun cakap benda sama.” It didn’t calm her down much, unfortunately.
Like I said, after the results were announced, Siti apologised to me for losing, and I kept telling her that it didn’t matter, and that they did their best and I’m glad for them that they had done their best. But she kept on asking me “Mister kecewa ka?” and I kept saying no. At one point, I asked her back, “kamu kecewa ka?” and she answered “ya la, pasai kami kalah.” and I replied “tapi kalah ka menang ka tak penting kan?” to which she had no answer, so she just kept quiet until we went back to school.
Later that day, a teacher came to me in the staff room and told me that Siti cried in class. When the teacher asked why, Siti told her that they had lost the action song competition. I was a little taken aback by this. I knew that she was feeling down because of the loss, but I didn’t think it was so bad that tears would be dropped. I thought wrong.
It reminded me of myself back when I was still in school, only this happened when I was in Form 5. We went for the national inter-premier school rugby tournament, and I was the captain of my team. I had been a part of the school’s rugby team from the beginning and that tournament was THE tournament to win, for all the batches that came before us, so I was very serious about achieving something in that one.
As you might have guessed, we lost that tournament. It was while we were still in the group stages, we won the first game, but lost the other two, so we didn’t make it to the quarter-finals. It was raining very heavily, and half of the field was submerged in water, but we had to play it anyway (games would only be postponed if there was lightning).
When the final whistle was blown, I was so devastated that I fell to the floor and threw my mouthguard away. I just laid there for a couple of minutes and wept in the rain. Finally, after some time, a teammate picked me up and we went to shake the hands of the team that defeated us. I remember one person commenting “dia ni mesti Form 6 ni!” upon shaking my hand. I was in no mood for responding.
After shaking their hands, I (rather drama-queenly) walked off to the far-side of the pitch to cry by myself. While crying in that water-submerged part of the field, I used the water to clean the mud off myself as well. So cry cry cedok air lap kat badan and kat muka. I stayed there for a good fifteen minutes, I think. All that time I was thinking to myself that I had ended my school-team-captaining days with a loss at the group stages, and how terrible that made me feel.
When I got back to the rest of the team, the coach (my father) was talking to the team. I guessed he was calming the team down. I felt a tinge of guilt for being all diva-like and heading off on my own to calm myself down, when all of the team were where they were supposed to be, in front of the coach.
Then I heard my father say, “dalam semua kamu ni, siapa yang paling saya rasa baguih sekali?” and deep within my itty-bitty heart, I wanted it to be me. He proceeded to say “Badang" (bukan nama sebenar). I was taken aback. Then he explained, “Pasaipa dia? Pasai bila bunyi final whistle tu, dia look up and immediately shook the hand of the opponents. That’s how you lose. You say good game, and you respect the other team, you accept the results, and life goes on. Success is not winning or losing. Success is giving it your best. Success is doing better than you did previously. The results are in the hands of God. Our job is to give it our best. And all of you gave your best. You deserve to clap for yourselves.” And we clapped.
Up until then, I had always expected a lot from myself, particularly when it came to rugby. I was used to winning, and I came to expect that from myself and my team. We had our fair share of losing by then, but I had high hopes for that particular tournament. So when we eventually lost, and in the tournament that meant the most to me, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I crashed and burned.
I had never really grasped the virtue of doing your best and that being an achievement in itself already. “You don’t have to win to be successful” were the wise words of my father that I only fully grasped after losing that tournament. And since then, I’ve been better at dealing with not only losing, but also winning. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I am more accepting of it being a fact of life that we win some and lose some.
So Siti, at nine years of age, is definitely allowed to cry because of losing. But I hope I am able to teach her the value of hard work and giving it your very best. I hope I am able to let her see that winning and losing are natural occurrences in life, and that success doesn’t only come from wins. Success comes from being better than your previous self. Success comes from giving it your best shot and not giving up until the final whistle blows. Success is being able to take losses in your stride and winning as a reason to be even more humble. If I can do that, achievement unlocked la for me.