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Learning from “Failure”

January 24, 2018

Another Way for week of January 19, 2018

JMU Bridgeforth Stadium and university campus. Took photo on a flyover ride.

Learning from “Failure”

Our local university football team just completed a very successful season in which they won 14 games, then lost their final game at the of the NCAA (National College Athletic Association). This was after last season when they went all the way—and won the national championship. So, some would maybe say they “failed” this year.

Not in my book nor that of any smart coach or fan with a bit of maturity. While disappointing, these kiddos grew up having fun playing football. While playing at the university level and beyond has become increasingly dangerous, profitable, and a downright grind if you’re not loving it, the coaches at James Madison University emphasized “this is just another game, go out there and enjoy yourselves.”

Well of course it would have been more fun if more of the passes had stuck in the eager hands of the receivers. They lost by only four points.

We had season tickets this year and had a blast cheering them on to victory as part of the game’s “twelfth man” in the stands. Instead of going to costly concerts or many movies, we consider this our little splurge and bit of insanity

—especially sitting on cold bleachers in 20 degree temperatures at night. Or 90 degree sunny afternoons in late August.

We first began following this team back when the football program’s first coach for JMU was (and still is) a member of our church. We became go-to-many-games fans (both home and away) when our middle daughter was in the school’s marching band (which also has a legacy of winning awards), and followed her and the band to New York City’s Macy Day parade. We also went to a championship playoff game in 2004 (where we won!) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ever since then, we have enjoyed going to as many games as we can afford or have time for, but not when something more important takes place (the wedding of a niece, a chance to spend my birthday with my mom). We try to keep our priorities in line.

Which is what wise coaches do everywhere as they teach their young folks the true benefits of playing any sport: learning from the lessons it teaches you about life: hard work, sucking it up when you have pain, teamwork, discipline, and the super joy of success and accomplishment. After they lost their last game and the championship, I was a little amazed to read a quote in our local paper from the team’s outstanding quarterback, Brian Schor, about what he would take with him from these past two years under Coach Mike Houston. Schor was impressed with the integrity he saw in Houston and said, “When I raise my kids and I live the rest of my life, what I say is going to be what I mean [like Houston]” Daily News Record, January 9, 2018).

I hasten to say playing football is not for everyone and I will not be disappointed if my grandsons don’t play more than backyard football (my oldest four-year-old loves it already). We all know kids who’ve had bad injuries which affect them throughout life from biking, running, playing soccer, basketball, running track, or ballet. I’ve written before of the downside of too much emphasis on early competitive sports, which sometimes takes the fun out of the game. Children maybe play more to please their parents or for a future questionable scholarship than for downright love of the game. This topic is discussed thoroughly in a book co-authored by the athletic director at my alma mater, Dave King, with Margot Starbuck, Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports (Herald Press, 2016). It makes a great study book for small groups or concerned parents.

You may not be a football fan but these principles apply to whenever you feel like a failure: Did you have fun? Was it healthy? Did it teach you something about life, other people, yourself, or God? If the answer to one or more of these is yes, then maybe it wasn’t really a failure.


What is or was your biggest failure so far? What did you learn? 


Other comments, or your own sports or other competitive stories? Contact me at or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

You can get more info or buy the book Overplayed by Dave King and Margot Starbuck here:


Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  







  1. No team that plays an undefeated season and loses the championship is a failure in my books either.
    Jacksonville’s Jaguars had a similar experience last weekend when they lost to the Patriots, which denied them Superbowl exposure. They’ll try to do better next season, the best lesson of “failure,” never giving up.

    Plaudits to you and Stuart for supporting your team in below freezing temps!

    • I was thinking of you when I heard about the Jaguar-Patriot game and the Jags’ loss. I have very mixed feelings about football although I enjoy watching games–the big money of the pros, and the competitiveness for scholarships at the college level, and the injuries–so am happy to herald the other kinds of gains from the game. Thanks for checking in!

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