Coming out on top is what we all strive for. Everybody loves a winner, right? Well, a winner is defined by more than the score. Today’s match at the U.S. Open between #1-ranked Naomi Osaka and teen phenom Coco Gauff provided a glowing display of what winning looks like. At 21 years old, Naomi is still making a name for herself in the elite ranks of tennis. Her play was focused and nearly flawless. She came to win. Coco, too, came to win. Coco had inspired moments, though she could not overcome Osaka’s brilliant performance. After two sets of thrilling play, the match was over with Naomi emerging victorious.
What came next were moments parents live to see for their children – grace in victory and in defeat. Naomi was pleased with her win and who could blame her? Coco didn’t simply roll over out there. As the match concluded, the players approached the net, shook hands, and embraced pleasantly with words of congratulations and admiration. Naomi could have seized this moment to revel in the adoration of the crowd. Yet, Naomi only took in a few moments of it before inviting Coco to participate in what should have been Naomi’s post-game interview. Though clearly disappointed about her loss, Coco accepted Naomi’s compliments on her game, and the invitation, with a little gentle prodding.
We parents must try mightily to instill certain character attributes in our children. We can model desired behaviors in our families. We should bring our children’s attention to positive interactions among others. We can encourage them to practice kindness and compassion when dealing with their friends by role-playing with them or teaching problem-solving skills on the spot, to help them resolve differences in respectful ways. Very importantly, we must allow them to tackle challenges independently in order to build courage and self-confidence. In the end, though, it’s really up to our children to decide whether they will open their hearts to show grace toward others recognizing that it doesn’t diminish their own accomplishments or standing to do so. If we equip them, we can hope they will make that choice. Naomi made that choice.
Naomi won the match, fair and square and deserved the honor that comes with it. Coco lost the match, without a doubt, and deserved respect and dignity as a determined competitor. As Harry Sheehy put it, “[i]t is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.” In the game of tennis, the score tells us who wins and who loses; that’s the way the ball bounces. In the game of life, these two ladies are #winning.