No matter if we win or lose, life’s contests can teach us a lot

It should come as no surprise, but I enjoy the thrill of competition and being competitive.

No matter what the score, I will continue to root for my favorite team and never give up or in to the thought of losing. In fact, that term does not fit in my vocabulary. Kellogg cereals says it best with the slogan, “What have you got to gain when you lose!”

As a coach for the dairy judging teams, my primary role is to provide the game plan, guidance, and the example that leads to a positive outcome. With the help of great volunteers/coaches, we all work to create the atmosphere for winning attitudes and scores that reflect the overall goal.

Although the dairy judging season continues, the biggest contests of all have now concluded for the college and 4-H teams by competing in the national contests hosted by World Dairy Expo. We have spent hours evaluating cows, placing classes, writing reasons, and having valuable discussions about their outcomes versus the officials.

The contest results do not always treat us with an official win, but there is much more to the story that remains untold.

With all due respect to the great Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes memorable quotes on winning, I would rather ask them what can be won when you don’t win! I feel confident posing the question, recognizing that I know more about football than they possibly knew about cows!

Life lessons

Growing up, probably our first experiences of winning and losing came in a card game like Old Maid or even the traditional Monopoly board game. Research has found that children only start to understand the true meaning of winning and losing around the age of 8. With these experiences, skills are learned that can be used in life, such as risk taking, concentration, and strategy.

It isn’t rocket science to understand winning is a huge boost for self esteem. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we win.

Parents and mentors play a huge role while observing how kids react to winning, losing and playing by the rules. We must take the time to discuss what happens, so we can assist them to improve performance during practice and also under pressure.

Dairy judging challenge

For those who accept the challenge or “game” of dairy judging, they must overcome some obstacles and step out of a comfort zone. They focus on connecting their memory of a class, the ability to write and organize what they saw, and then stare you in the eye with absolute confidence as they expound verbally!

This scenario is played out time and time again before the contest. It requires a desire to win and the ability to accept the risk of losing some inhibitions. It takes courage to put on your “game face”.

There is nothing more exciting than seeing these kids win at judging. Maybe it comes by receiving 46 points for a set of reasons, or it could be the recognition of ranking in the top 25, or even beating out some other team from a neighboring state! It can be a silent success or one that requires a shout of excitement.

I do not have the benefit of coaching during the contest, but I carefully study their appearance and their conduct on the shavings. Whether it is a field goal or a touchdown, points are earned and a coach must be able to teach the team what it means to do their personal best. That simple recognition is a reward that will stand the test of time.

There is great pride in guiding them to reaching their goals and that needs to be carefully taught (in the huddle) both before and after a contest.

The real prize

I grant that the relationships developed and fostered are the greatest prize! And oh yes, by my pupils I have been taught!

There is proof that many leaders within the dairy industry were a part of 4-H and collegiate judging teams. There is even more evidence that they speak of it with reverence and how it changed their lives.

Although it was probably not realized in their youth or at the competitions, these leaders can now fully appreciate the importance of the experience and how it has taught them to win in life.

The names and results of our dairy judging teams are printed up in news releases, but perhaps the greatest measure of success will be how they use the personal victories and wins to change the course of the future.

I will end with another great quote from Woody when he said that you can never really pay back, you can only pay it forward. Maybe Woody knew more about winning the game of life than he did about football, but it would have been fun to coach him in the game of dairy judging!

About the Author

Bonnie Ayers is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. More Stories by Bonnie Ayers

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