I have 4 nieces on my husband’s side of the family. All are high level competitors—two are professional cyclists and two played volleyball on athletic scholarships at UCLA and Hawaii.

Alison on bikeOne of my nieces, Alison Tetrick,recently reflected about “almost winning.” It spoke to me of child-centered spirituality and I’ve summarized her ideas here.

Our whole lives we are taught to strive to win, to be the best.

Be the best in sport, school, career and even family life. At one point some of us settle for the 80% or even just completion credit. If not, just use a clever filter and crop on Instagram and play the part. No one can be in top form all the time, right? But the athletes we idolize and the CEOs we google-stalk are all considered winners in our book.

We want to be winners too.

Honestly, that’s why I like being in sport. There are clear and concise deliverables.  Whoever crosses the line first, wins. Although it may not guarantee your Olympic bid, you had a moment of winning. But what about the people who really tried? Who gave their best effort? Whose struggle captured the crowd’s heart? The underdog with the compelling story? What about those who almost won?

Is there such a thing as almost winning?

For me, this concept goes back to my first-grade spelling bee. I remember prancing proudly into the house at 7 years old with my second-place ribbon, only to reach the realization that second place was really just the first loser. In this situation being the first loser may have been prevented if I had asked them to use the word in a sentence. I had difficulty pronouncing the difference between “ripe” and “wipe” so I spelled the wrong word. Even so, this is a lesson I will always remember.

Alison racingI have been on both sides of the results and scoreboard.

I have been the rider who even though was victorious, was close to being upset and the crowds murmured about the possibility of dethroning the queen. And I have been the rider who almost won with courage and gusto, but was just passed at the line in dramatic fashion.

The concept of almost winning has been floating in my mind since my return from the Aviva Women’s Tour in Great Britain. Almost winning a Women’s World Tour race and donning the leader’s jersey! Can you imagine!? But, I didn’t win.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Even if you didn’t win, you were a crucial part of sport. You showed courage and tenacity and maybe a little stupidity, but that is what it is all about.  Why else do you line up to a race?

Winning isn’t everything.  Almost winning is something too.

Even if it is just against yourself. You risked, you raced. You put yourself out there to either succeed or fail. That’s why we spectate and participate in sport. We don’t compete to just get a gold star for finishing. We compete to push our limits. To test ourselves. Sometimes the test is your overall effort, not the result. You know when you almost beat yourself, and when you played it safe.

I would rather almost win, than just survive.

Of course I can say that now with hindsight clarity. In the moment I wanted to crawl into a hole. The end result is only one part of the endeavor. You have to have courage under fire and be bold. By doing this, you will have a hell of a story, and you also may surprise yourself and those around you.

Race bikes. Use it in a sentence. Win. Almost win. Lose. But make it count.

Tweetable: For a young athlete in the family, a pro cyclist gives a different perspective on “almost winning” here.  Click to Tweet