My son's football coach, one of us dads, was adamant. 'Boys, I only want winners. There is winning or there is nothing. I don't care how you do it but just win.' They lost.
Not only did they lose but they lost by kicking the ball aimlessly upfield, feigning injury and losing their tempers. It was ugly, depressing and not all that unfamiliar if you happen to be watching from the parental touchlines on a Sunday morning.
That was then. Last year, a charming Spaniard named Oscar took over. Another dad but quite clearly a philosopher as much as a player. Last weekend was the boys' eagerly-anticipated county cup final. And they lost. The other team was bigger, faster and stronger but Oscar made sure that his team behaved and played perfectly. Yes they lost but they lost in the right manner - ball on the ground, brilliant team ethic, good manners and no bitterness.
They would have been brilliant winners but they were fabulous losers, too.
And then we rushed home to watch Chelsea beat Liverpool with the kind of shameful mean-spiritedness that characterises so much of what Jose Mourinho terms 'success'. The negative tactics, timewasting, lack of panache, enjoyment and good grace that we've spent the season telling our children is anathema to football, was on garish display once again.
Who cares, said my Chelsea-supporting neighbour, it's the winning that counts and I begrudgingly nodded in agreement. Perhaps winning ugly is more important than losing beautifully.
If we accept that line, then one must assume that rising through the ranks by behaving treacherously in an office is better than merely excelling in your job. Embracing deviousness in business to gain greater advantage is better than profitable mediocrity. If you need to cheat to get one over on the system, then, well, needs must.
So why don't we teach our children those things too? If sport is a microcosm of life - and it is - why isn't the winning ugly ethos part of our father-son curriculum, or central to business school teaching? Can we expect to see Jose Mourinho succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as a visiting Harvard professor, advising tomorrow's Masters of the Universe how to succeed in business without really trying to dazzle?
Loser is such a pejorative word. No one wants to be a loser. But what if glorious frustration is better than ignoble victory, trying and failing to do what is right more preferable than getting away with acting improperly?
To be a good winner you have to know how to be a good loser first. In life as well as on the pitch. Men seem especially reluctant to taste failure when in fact it's a far more potent ingredient to savour. It's how we learn the difference between right and wrong - the most valuable lesson we teach our children, and one which some seem to forget the moment they become 'professional'.
I suspect Mourinho would sneer at such a sentiment and Chelsea fans - should they triumph in either or both of the Champions League and Premiership - laugh uproariously.
I wish some of them could watch our boys on a Sunday. Because what Oscar doesn't realise, now that he's moving back to Spain, is that he taught our children how to win well and lose impeccably. A lesson all of us learnt.Suggest a correction