The real victory: Learning from defeat

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The Journal and our sister publication, the Bennington Banner, threw a gala for some deserving student-athletes and their coaches on Tuesday night in Bennington. To our relief and delight, a full house of family and friends crowded into Bennington College's Greenwall Auditorium for the occasion.

The Northshire was well represented, at guest tables and at the podium, as student-athletes from Arlington, Long Trail, Stratton Mountain and Burr and Burton were among the honorees.

And we were graced by the presence and generous spirit of three-time Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas, who was exceptionally gracious and giving of her time and attention. We hope her stories of the perseverance and effort it took to reach the top of the podium at the highest level of her sport resonate with the student-athletes in attendance for years to come.

It truly was a rewarding and satisfying experience, and we look forward to doing it again next year.

Why the fuss? High school sports, when kept in healthy perspective as part of education, teach a number of important lessons. The value of teamwork comes to mind. So does leadership, shared sacrifice, time management, and commitment to shared goals with teammates.

But there's another lesson that high school athletes learn, and it's got nothing to do with the glory of winning championships. In fact, it's all about the lack thereof.

In sports, one individual or team gets to walk off with a championship trophy — and it's not always the "best" team. Even if you've had a perfect season, the opposition might have a perfect game in the title game and walk off with the victory for which you worked so hard.

Sometimes, life is like that.

How we deal with hard times and failure — and more to the point, what we learn from it — is often more important than what we learn from winning. And sports are a valuable way to learn that the most important lessons in life often come from overcoming adversity.

The New York Times recently reported that Smith College in Northampton, Mass., has a new program for students seeking to "destigmatize failure."

"What we're trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it's the feature," Rachel Simmons, a leadership development specialist at the academically rigorous women's college, told the Times. "For many of our students — those who have had to be almost perfect to get accepted into a school like Smith — failure can be an unfamiliar experience. So when it happens, it can be crippling."

All of the award-winners we honored Tuesday night have overcome some sort of challenge or adversity in their young lives, or found a friend or family member facing a challenge that affected their lives. And they've found a way to overcome it and be their best selves.

Whether or not they continue their athletic careers in college, our honorees from Tuesday night, and their teammates, have learned valuable lessons from that experience. We thank them for celebrating with us and wish them continued success.


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