Dad’s lessons in losing

I’m blessed to have a good job that allows a good life, where great lessons to live by are all around.

The trick and the challenge:

Can you absorb the lessons and gain some benefit for you and those around you?

I remind myself of that daily, but especially on Father’s Day. I know it’s a day when dads are celebrated. But I also like it as an annual chance to reflect and relish my role, and review it.

I’m blessed to have three sons — each his own canvas giving me varying chances to do right. “Varying” is the operative word because it also means chances to do wrong. No snowflake is the same, and the same for kids.

Some of our best lessons revolve around sports. It’s my canvas, for sure. But I try to ensure sports work for my sons not just as a vehicle for recreation, but also for life refinement.

One son set out last fall to physically develop so as to reach a higher hockey level. He worked it for six months; did extra sessions, etc., all to be ready for April’s crazy tryout season. It’s especially crazy if you try to reach for the next level of play.

Tryouts ended with him not reaching that next level, despite his efforts.

It was awkward with one team because he was playing spring side games with it as part of his development. So he was cut on a Tuesday from the main-season team, but had to practice Wednesday for its spring side team that had games in a couple of days.

When no call came to make the main team, he was sad.

I retreated to the cliches: 1) It’s a part of the process; 2) You will lose a lot more in life than you win; 3) Learn from it; it’s a growth opportunity, 4) blah blah, 5) blah blah, etc...

I said we’ll go there Wednesday for spring play, have a good attitude and not sweat it. Ask coach “Why,” but otherwise accept it and move on.

When we got there Wednesday, we learned that other kids like him — playing spring but trying for the main team but who were cut — had quit the spring team, angry they missed the main team.

I said, “That’s not us. We committed. We stay the course.”

That weekend at the tournament, he was officially the lowest-level kid on the roster. But with kids quitting, he was afforded more ice time. He put in a great performance over that weekend, including a couple of goals.

We were one hour on the road back home when the text came from the coach:

“My eyes were opened; I want him on our team; I will call you tomorrow.”

I showed my son the text. There was a smile. He’s on the team.

It would have been easier to just have made the team in the first place.

But it would not have been as defining.

The lesson in losing, then winning, will last a lot longer than whatever this upcoming season brings.

That theme was reinforced this week when Youngstown State football Coach Eric Wolford visited the newsroom.

We had him as a guest for our Father’s Day-themed Vindy Talk Radio show (see video on He’s a dad of sorts to 100-plus young men — elite, accomplished and privileged young men.

But his biggest victory as a dad was accepting his son’s predicament.

Stone was born with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome. His life expectancy is four to 14 years, Wolf said.

That initial diagnosis was a devastating loss for him and wife, Melinda. He said months of depression followed until he got up one day and said he was done living depressed.

Stone became a win for him. He told Melinda:

“This is going to eat us up if we don’t learn to accept this and realize we’ve been chosen to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

The life of a head football coach is tough and ultimately measured by wins. Not losses.

But within losing, there’s winning.

The challenge: seeing it.

It’s great when you get that chance to — in football, hockey or life.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.