Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Pep Talks Encourage Teen to Find Victory in Defeat

DEAR ABBY: I read with distress the letter from "Depressed Teen in the Desert," the 14-year-old who lost a martial arts tournament. As a youth coach for many years, I am convinced there is entirely too much emphasis placed on winning as a measure of success in sports today.

True success is overcoming adversity and performing to the best of your ability. There will always be someone who is better than you. That doesn't mean you won't win, but most likely, you won't win every match. In sports, success should be measured in progress and effort.

"Depressed Teen" may have come up short on the scoreboard, but he is not a failure. A failure is someone who gives up, or gives less than his or her best effort. -- COACH IN WASHINGTON

DEAR COACH: I hope the young person who wrote takes your letter to heart. Adults recognize that success is a process, a road that is constantly under construction. Young adults often are hard on themselves when they don't succeed right away. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Please remind "Depressed Teen" that Babe Ruth -- who held the record for home runs -- also held the record for striking out. Also, at one time, both Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan were considered not good enough to play on their school's teams. Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, lost more elections than he won.

The one consistent factor with all of these guys is that they kept trying. Nobody considers them "losers."

At age 14, "Teen's" body hasn't come close to the peak of what he will be able to do if he doesn't give up now. The fact that he even made it to the tournament puts him way ahead of most spectators.

A loser? No, sir -- no way! Please give him this message. -- T.J., THE TEACHER

DEAR T.J.: Well said! Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm 15 and also a martial artist. I have been training for more than three years and have my black belt. After every class, we recite the "Tenets of the Martial Arts." The first is perseverance. Perseverance is vital; it's the key to achieving. If I didn't believe that, I would have given up long ago. Everybody fails before they ever win. (I know I have.) "Teen" should be proud he made it to the state championships (what an honor!). Although he lost, he must get back up and keep trying. It's the only way to succeed. I hope this martial artist doesn't sacrifice his talents because of one loss. -- PERSEVERANCE ALWAYS WINS

DEAR "PERSEY": I'm sure "Depressed Teen" will be grateful for your pep talk. You're very wise. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: May I offer a comment to "Depressed Teen in the Desert"? At age 14, there are many more martial arts tournaments ahead of you. Remember that Thomas Edison tried many times to create the electric light. His last attempt is the one people remember! -- C. JOHNSON, HANFORD, CALIF.

DEAR C: That's succinct and astute. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Please ask "Depressed Teen" to consider this -- Chuck Norris failed his first black-belt test. (Read about it and his successful second attempt in his autobiography, "The Secret of Inner Strength.") In the long run, do you think that experience held him back or pushed him forward? -- TOM NORDLIE, GAINESVILLE, FLA.

DEAR TOM: Good question. I'll bet few people know that Chuck Norris ever failed. Thanks for the interesting tidbit. And thank you to all the caring people who made the effort to offer encouragement to a young athlete who clearly had a bad day.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600