Winning by Losing

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence.

There’s an old saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”  In today’s highly competitive culture, this may seem as an outdated concept.  I don’t think it is.  While I prefer to win, I would rather play honorably and lose, then dishonorably and win.

We all got a wonderful example of this recently.  Western Oregon University was playing Central Washington University in an end of the year NCAA women’s softball conference tournament.  The winner of the tournament would advance to the NCAA national championship tournament.

Sara Tucholsky, a Western Oregon Senior hit a home run that put her team ahead by three runs. This was her first home run in either high school or college.  However, as Ms. Tucholsky rounded first based, she tripped on the bag and collapsed with a knee injury, later determined to be a torn ligament.
She could not get up and continue around the bases.  If her teammates assisted her in any way, she would be ruled out.  If a pinch runner were brought it, she would be credited with a single, not a home run.

Mallory Holtman, the Central Washington first baseman, asked an umpire if she could help Ms. Tucholsky around the bases.  The umpires conferred and came to conclusion that there was no rule against this suggestion.  So Ms. Holtman and Central Washington shortstop Liz Wallace, put their arms under Ms. Tucholsky’s shoulders and carried her around the bases, making sure that she could touch each base with her uninjured leg.  The picture in the Denver Post was priceless – two young women in white uniforms carrying another young woman in a red uniform.

Ms. Tucholsky said, “Mallory asked me which leg was the one that hurt.  I told her it was my right leg, and she said ‘OK. We’re going to drop you down gently, and you need to touch it with your left leg.’  I said ‘OK.  Thank you very much.’”

Ms Tucholsky’s homer was good for three runs.  Western Oregon won the game 4 – 2.  If her opponents had not carried her around the bases, they might have won the game and remained alive in the tournament – and appeared in their first ever NCAA tournament.  Instead, Western Oregon advanced to the tournament which began this week.

I always remind people that interpersonally competent people build strong relationships by giving with no expectation of return.  Ms. Holtman and Wallace certainly embodied this principle.  They did what they thought was the right thing to do. 

The ball that Ms. Tucholsky hit cleared the fence.  It was a home run.  However, a freak injury prevented her from being able to run the bases on her own.  So Ms. Holtman and Wallace did the honorable thing.  They helped a competitor get what was rightly coming to her – even if it meant losing the game.  To go back to how I began this post, Ms. Holtman and Wallace would rather play honorably and lose, then dishonorably and win.  Good for them.

The common sense point here is simple.  Mallory Holtman, Liz Wallace and the Central Washington Women’s Softball Team are a model of interpersonal competence and sportsmanship.  Faced with an opportunity to win in a questionable – not illegal, or even unethical way – they chose to lose with dignity.  They did the right thing – even though it was at a sacrifice to themselves.  Interpersonally competent people choose to the right thing.  My hat’s off to these young women.  You can read an excellent article on this game and incident at

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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