You don't have to win to be a winner

Sergio Parisse has an unenviable sporting record. The captain of the Italian rugby team has played for his country 135 times and been on the losing side in over 100 matches. To stretch an Americanism, he is the most ‘losingest’ player in international rugby history.

And yet.

By almost any other assessment Parisse is a winner. One of the best players in the world in his position he keeps coming back for more when many others would have quit. What drives him on and what can we learn?

There are some powerful clues in recent interviews. Here is a selection of what he had to say and my interpretation of how that helps him bounce back defeat after defeat. What makes him resilient.

He said: “Every time I put on the Italian jersey it’s really important to me that I feel I’m representing the history of the team, the culture” and “I do want to leave a legacy for Italian rugby, not because others should copy me as an individual, but for what I hope I represent.”

There is something deeper to him here than just playing rugby. There is a real sense of connection and purpose in what Parisse is doing. Indeed, he frequently talks about the work that coach Conor O’Shea is doing in building for the future. We know the power of purpose and its effect in driving us on, even through short term obstacles.

He also says: “Sometimes you play well, sometimes you play badly, but every single time I put on a jersey it is a moment to enjoy.” and “I don’t get excited when people say: ‘Wow, what a good player’, or ‘You’re playing well’, and I don’t get down when people say I played badly.”

Here he is clearly grounded in the moment, not getting too hung up on the past or the future. How often do we find ourselves stuck in a rut about something that we (think) we did badly and seem unable to let go of? This ability to be fully present enables us to make the most of the situation we find ourselves in.

Parisse also has a reputation among his team mates of being a player without ego, a man who puts himself at the service of the team in whatever way is required, somebody who is very forgiving of others limitations (and his own). How often do we see the star player getting stroppy with their less able team mates? Not Sergio, he is there to support and encourage.

Sergio Parisse is a true winner. Saluti Sergio.