A favorite quote of mine comes from a statement I heard years ago about adversity being a building block in developing one's character. I used to even prescribe to the theory: 'A B C - Adversity Builds Character'.
Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Over the course of time, I found this not necessarily to be true. After seeing key players and coaches deal with adverse situations like injury, a referee call or a loss, I found that adversity didn't make people stronger (building character). Rather, that kind of adversity in key situations often reveals character - as you learn an awful lot about them in times of crisis.
I was happy to hear those same comments echoed by NFL coach-turn-ESPN commentator Eric Mangini while describing the dissaray in the New York Jets locker room after their defeat yesterday...we must have been reading from the same coaching handbook...
I actually googled the word 'adversity' today after hearing Mangini's comments, and I found this comment by Dallas Cowboys' Pro Bowl standout DeMarcus Ware in reference to bouncing back from a tough loss earlier this season-
"You just had a loss, [so] what are you going to do about it?" Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said as he walked to the team bus with a defiant attitude. "The good teams, they come back from a tough loss like that and you really see the true team spirit and how teams come back from adversity. That's what really tells you the type of character we have on this team. We're going to see that this week."
I do believe that you need to have adversity affect you or your team to create a true coachable moment of how to deal with it, but I don't think that adversity makes you stronger. It's being able to learn from those experiences, and then responding positively the next time it strikes, that shows the true test of someone's inner strength.
The next time you are watching an important sporting event, look to see not only who scores the most goals, points, runs or touchdowns, but who is able to respond positively when bad things happen - true champions respond positively when crisis strikes, which is when their true character is revealed.
It's our job as coaches to prepare our players when those times come.