“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”Who doesn’t love a good Vince Lombardi quote?
Coffeen peggy
Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

When you live just minutes from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, iconic words like these from the famous football coach are like an echo in the wind. They are embedded into Packer Country culture.

But you don’t have to be a football fanatic to appreciate the drive to win. Maybe you felt it when you were a high school athlete. Perhaps you still do on Friday nights at a recreational bowling league, or when your kid shows a heifer at the county fair. It’s that competitive spirit that nudges you to dig deeper, push harder, do things others won’t, all for the purpose of a satisfying win.

Want to know what activity revs my competitive spirit into overdrive? Dairy quiz bowl. It all started when I was a frizzy-haired little girl with glasses as big as my face. The competition for dairy knowledge ignited a spark inside of me that has yet to fade. These days, I channel that passion into being a coach for a group of cow-loving youth in our county for dairy bowl and jeopardy. My goal for the past several years has been this: to coach a team to victory at our state dairy quiz bowl competition.

I’ve gotten close many times, with our teams getting into the final rounds. Alas, capturing the big win to seal the deal fell just out of reach. As a coach, I was so focused on the win, chasing that final “W” to chalk up at the end of the contest. But this past year, at our recent state competition, I learned an important lesson: Winning doesn’t start with “W.”

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There I sat, watching the kids I coach belly up to the table, with buzzers in hand, to compete in an individual contest called dairy jeopardy. In this round, I was cheering on 11-year-old Audrey, whose big, bright smile and infectious spunk fill a room. One thing I’ve noticed in coaching youth on their dairy knowledge is: The first year or two, they are a little shy to hit the buzzer, but in that third year, the confidence and skill come together – and all of a sudden, things just “click.”

That day, I watched it “click” for Audrey. A jeopardy category popped up titled, “It Starts with a P.” The moderator fired off questions like this:

  • Q: What is another term for giving birth? (A: Parturition)
  • Q: What do you call an animal’s offspring? (A: Progeny)
  • Q: What is the pregnancy hormone? (A: Progesterone)

Audrey dominated, nailing a slew of correct responses in a row. It was one of those moments when your heart overflows as you see a little face light up, illuminated by a new level of self-assurance that will carry forward. And as I sat there, so proud of this young lady, it hit me: This was winning.

Turns out, I had defined winning all wrong. The “win” wasn’t just taking home medals and trophies. The real wins start with a “P”:

  • It was about celebrating progress.
  • Finding joy in a process.
  • Nurturing passion.

As I embraced this concept while watching our teams go on to compete in dairy quiz bowl, I decided that, as a coach, I would focus less on the “W” and more on the “P’s.” And do you know what else happened? This was the year one of our teams finally took home the “W” in dairy quiz bowl.

Think for a moment: Are you a member of a team or the coach or leader of a team? Perhaps it’s a management team, a maternity pen team, a recreational sports league, a 4-H club or your own family. How do you define winning? Is it the win itself or the progress, process and passion of getting there?

You may just discover, too, that winning is about much more than the “W.” end mark

Peggy Coffeen