Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Glenn Tucker | Learning to lose

Published:Tuesday | April 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Calabar High School and Kingston College have a lot in common. Calabar was started by the Baptist Church. The aim was – primarily – to provide educational opportunities for young black boys. Kingston College was started by two Anglican bishops in order to provide similar opportunities for the same demographic group.

Over the years, both schools have distinguished themselves, producing students who have excelled in a variety of disciplines. But it is sports that we think of when these schools are mentioned.

Some 70 years ago, Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint put Jamaica on the map by winning Olympic gold medals. Wikipedia lists historian Arnold Bertram as one of Calabar’s notable alumni. His book, Here Sir, Calabar History, should be required reading for all Calabar students.

Keith Glegg graduated from KC in 1942 at age 16. Later in life, he pioneered the development of the Doppler Aircraft Navigation System (DANS) embraced by the Canadian and American military air forces. Michael Holding and Lennox Miller are just two of an army of outstanding KC sportsmen.

It is difficult to accurately describe the commitment of KC alumni to their alma mater.

A few days before the beginning of Champs 2019, the public learned of disciplinary problems at Calabar. The problems related to claims by the physics teacher that two of their star athletes had attacked and injured him.

Calabar performed below expectations and their main rivals won. The next day of school, a video surfaced on social media showing Calabar students in a large room chanting some demeaning stuff about KC boys. Adults could be seen in the room. The video went viral. The Ministry of Education visited the school and a compromise of sorts was worked out with KC. But most of the talk shows had callers apportioning blame and demanding that the acting principal should step down.


First, let me say that the acting principal has been in his position for a relatively short period of time, too short to be blamed for any serious deterioration in the culture of discipline at the institution. The assumption has always been that the socialisation process should start in the home – by parents. So when the child starts school, there would be sufficient respect for authority to facilitate learning. We have known for a long time that parents have been abdicating their responsibilities in this department. This presents the schools with a considerable challenge.

The way I see it, is that these boys were grieving. Most of them have spent their entire career at Calabar not experiencing anything but victory at Champs. For them, this is a new, painful experience. And they seem to have little or no experience dealing with loss or failure. But Calabar had been losing to KC for years.

And, in recent years, KC was losing to Calabar? Can anyone remember KC behaving like this?

A friend of mine mentioned her son who seemed to be in deep depression over a period of four days. He represented Calabar in another sport. The team played in the finals of the competition with another school. That school won and he was inconsolable.

In a failed attempt to console him, I mentioned that getting to the finals was, in itself, an accomplishment as his team had, in fact, come second.

“No, no,” he interrupted, “We are just first losers.”

And herein lies the problem. We have been taught to strive for perfection. For success. But none of us have ever been taught how to lose gracefully.

The words used by the Calabar students are used everywhere to condemn any male with whom we have a disagreement – especially in traffic.

Losing is a natural part of life. But learning to lose gracefully does not come naturally. Learning to lose gracefully is an art that is perfected only through guidance and experience.

Calabar is not the only school to blame here.

The following evening, KC faced St Jago in the finals of the Schools’ Challenge Quiz.

KC lost.

During the celebration by the victors which followed, the camera swept across the faces of the KC administration that were present. They all looked as if they were at a funeral. What message did this send to the losing students?


Too many of our children are growing up with an inhibiting fear of rejection.

The failure of the school administration to assemble the students the next schoolday and impart appropriate messages to cope with the loss is another missed opportunity to teach a valuable lesson.

In fact, while promoting success and competition, all schools should encourage the life lessons of coping with defeat or a lack of success.

Wimbledon High School in the UK runs a ‘failure week’ to teach pupils to deal with losing gracefully.

Learning to lose is a critical weapon in the arsenal required to prepare young people for adult life when they inevitably fail to get a job or go through periods when they struggle in relationships or at the workplace. It they don’t learn to lose gracefully, they will cheat.

May I suggest, respectfully, that we put our friends at Calabar on probation, while the responsible parties put my suggestion to the test.

Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. He is also a former coach at Holmwood Technical High School. Email feedback to and