How do YOU feel about coming SECOND?

It’s an interesting thing, taking second place in a sporting event. On the one hand, that’s a pretty good achievement on any given day! And on the other . . . SO close to winning (and yet not)!

The subject has been looked at in the past (as the article link will attest), albeit not in a proper, methodical, experimental manner. And some of this ‘evidence’ seems to suggest that getting Second place is in fact worse than coming Third. Really???

With all due respect to the “Scientific” American article, the research quoted proves nothing . . . except that college psychology students tend to agree on how faces can display different degrees of happiness. The “why” is something else entirely. Supposedly, athletes who achieve a Silver medal are less happy than their Bronze-medal counterparts. The explanation given is that “First Loser” is an awful position to be in, doubly so if you expected (or hoped) to win . . . whereas third place is a podium position that could otherwise have been “nothing at all” . . . at least you’re up there!

But I don’t subscribe to this viewpoint, particularly since it seems only to have been addressed in certain types of competition. Consider a contest where, at the finals, two athletes compete for Gold/Silver, and two others compete for Bronze/nothing. Naturally, the Silver medalist, having just LOST to the Gold medalist, might be somewhat despondent. And naturally, the Bronze medalist, having just WON a place on the podium, might be somewhat pleased. Would the same be true in a one-off race scenario though? Or in a points competition? Somehow, I doubt it.

How we approach winning . . . how we approach “almost winning” . . . and how we approach the importance of winning (as coaches and parents, as well as athletes) . . . can be a really fascinating area of study. I just don’t think we should believe all the hype and “scientific” evidence suggesting that Second place sucks. (Even when there are only 2 in the contest, the second place-getter still came out ahead of those who did not compete.)

What do YOU think?

Craig Pearman
18 Glasswing Drive
Upper Coomera, QLD 4209
0414 505 088


Gold Coast Performance Pyscology