Watching the Jaguars play New Orleans last week, you just got the feeling that the Saints would figure out a way to win and maybe the Jaguars didn’t quite know how.
Wanting to win is something we’re born with, but learning how to win is something we develop.
“It comes innately,” said Sheldon Kaplan, PhD, a clinical psychologist who’s been in practice since 1975. Dr. Kaplan specializes in childhood development and says being competitive and learning to win is developed from social interactions.
“When you’re eight or nine-years-old you think it’s nice to win. But at thirteen or 14 sometimes your very being is based on winning or losing.”
Kaplan has seen children as young as two have a strong desire to win, and others who are so afraid of losing they can’t even go on the field. He calls our awareness of where we stand in any competitive situation “social auditing.” Whether it’s getting back a math test or running a race.
“It’s a very complex process that develops because of social interactions. We monitor our performance. It intensifies with your age. It’s very complex. Those things in the locker room have an impact on what happens on the field.”
Just six games into the regular season, and with a rookie quarterback, are the Jaguars learning how to win?
“It’s a team-to-team thing,” Tackle Cam Robinson said Wednesday. “At Alabama there was an aura of winning. But each team, each year had to figure out how to do it with the guys they had.”
“One hundred percent,” Calais Campbell agreed. “Each team has to figure out every year how to win, what works for them.”
Campbell maintains that even at 2-4, the 2019 Jaguars have a chance to be a good team. But admits for some teams, it takes longer to figure out how to win.
“That’s why some teams get hot late in the year,” he said.
“You look at teams that win, there’s culture there that you rise to as part of that team,” Dr. Kaplan added. “It’s the culture and the leadership of the team. They learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses; it’s a vey elaborate social culture. It’s a collective effort.”
Kaplan says losing helps us cope and learn how to move forward. To do so is a process. “You have to be aware of your mistakes but not focused on them,” he said. “The focus has to be on what to do right the next time.”
Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Riley, who has won championships as a player, coach and an executive, believes each game has a turning point. “In every contest,” he says, “There comes a moment that separates winning from losing. The true warrior understands and seizes that moment.”
Although teams want to start fast and get ahead early, that moment usually comes sometime late in the third or early in the fourth quarter in an NFL game. One team figures something out and makes a play to turn the tide.
“You have to learn to adapt,” says tennis Hall of Famer Tony Trabert. “You get to a point where you have to make something happen. You’ve got to perform and not hope the other guy makes a mistake.”
Trabert won ten of the eleven Grand Slam finals he played in saying he was a “percentage kind of guy,” taking a few chances to keep the opponent off balance but playing to his own strengths.
“When I knew I was good enough, I expected to win,” he said. “Under pressure, do what you do best. You have the best chance of doing well with that in that situation.”
“I wasn’t superstitious, stepping on lines or over them or whatever, that’s negative stuff,” the former Davis Cup captain added. “You’re fit, you know your opponent, keep that negative stuff out of your head.”
There’s not a lot of negative energy in the Jaguars locker room. Head Coach Doug Marrone wants his team to focus turning their frustration into positive energy and point it toward getting better and winning. He sees that channeling through his rookie quarterback.
“He’s a young player, he’s had a lot of success early on,” Marrone said of Gardner Minshew’s struggles last week. “I think you get to a point where you have some success [and] people are going to start taking that away. People are going to start changing things up and testing you coverage-wise to see where you can go. He’s a smart kid, and he’ll learn from it.”
Minshew says he’s building a bank of experience that he’s starting to lean on after six games in the league.
“Absolutely. There’s a lot of learning that could be done and has been done from that tape,” he said of the New Orleans game last Sunday. “There’s things you’ll see in earlier games that we have to apply to this and that continues to grow, and we’ll continue to grow.”
Eighteen-time Golf Major Champion Jack Nicklaus says part of winning is learning how not to lose. One of his keys is to minimize mistakes, even though they’re going to happen.
“You have to learn how to shrink your mistakes (you will always make mistakes),” Nicklaus said. “How to make them small enough where they won’t cost you the tournament.”
In golf that means making just a bogey instead of triple-bogey. In football, don’t compound the holding call with unsportsmanlike conduct.
Now would be a good time for the Jaguars to apply the lessons learned in the first six weeks. Cincinnati is winless and the Jets come to town next week, both AFC opponents. The trip to London to face division opponent Houston follows with the Texans making their first trip to Wembley. A hot streak going into the bye week would put them right back in the race.