Lessons in losing

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
For the past two years, I’ve seen Cloverdale’s final game of the season.
Last year, the Eagles lost to St. Joseph Notre Dame, the eventual state runner-up, on a last-second shot in the North Coast Section Division V semifinals. On Saturday, they lost another gut-wrencher, falling to third-seeded St. Mary’s, 64-60, in the Division IV quarterfinals.
On both occasions, I interviewed Cloverdale coach John Gastineau after the game. Each time, he invited me into the locker room, set up folding chairs so we could talk and answered my questions.
I was struck both times by how calm Gastineau was. It’s not that the losses didn’t hurt – I thought he was going to choke up for a moment when he talked about his players Saturday – but it would have been hard for an outsider to tell if Gastineau’s team had won or lost.
He didn’t make excuses, raise his voice, bring up questionable foul calls, invoke his players’ “lack of execution” or defend his strategies. He even smiled. In other words, he had some perspective.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal. I mean, maybe it’s not particularly notable when a grown man who leads teenagers acts like an adult.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting most coaches I’ve dealt with in my newspaper experience act like jerks after tough losses.
But for some reason I’m writing about Gastineau.
And, honestly, I’ve asked myself why.
And I’ve decided it’s because losing with such grace and class really is uncommon. Believe me. I know. This is being written by a 37-year-old man who has pouted when his fantasy football team has lost.
So I’ve been inspired to write about the example of Gastineau, the type of coach who might do his best teaching after the game is over.