Competitive sports, when held in the hands of appropriate adults, provides kids with critically important life skills that will eventually translate to success in many other performance arenas in their lives. If you really want your child to be happy and successful in their youth sports experience, parents and guardians have two critical jobs. Watch this video to find out what they are.
Our winning-crazed society certainly reinforces this destructive belief. We put our “great” athletes up on pedestals based mainly on their winning, not on their character, integrity, generosity, honesty or other important qualities of good human beings. We overlook their faults, rationalize away their bad behaviors and make them our heroes as long as they continue to win. Similarly, when these athletes start to stumble and fall, performance-wise, we dismiss them as “losers,” “has been,” “over-rated” or “all washed up.” It’s no wonder that athletes make the mistake of treating themselves in this very same way: i.e. when you win, you’re a winner and when you lose, you’re a loser.
Here’s the problem with this equation: If your ego or self-worth is on the line every time that you compete, if you measure your value as a person solely on how well you throw a baseball, swing a tennis racquet, swim a 200 IM or catch a football, then you will end up being a very unhappy camper a lot of the time. Whenever you compete, you will always have too much to lose. By making your performances too important in this way, you will continually feel a lot of pressure to win. You will also tend to worry too much about losing. Having this kind of outcome focus whenever you compete will actually sabotage your performances and lead to choking.
Let’s try to keep this sports thing in perspective. Being an athlete is only one part of who you actually are. You are also a son or daughter, big brother or sister, student, mentor, parent, spouse, musician, worker, etc. So what really makes you a winner? Being a great athlete is a very shallow and narrow way to measure whether you’re a winner or not. Who you are as a person in the world, interacting with others is a far more important way to determine your real character and self-worth.
So the next time you step up to the line to compete, leave your pride/ego/self-worth at home. When you do this you’ll end up feeling more relaxed, having more fun and therefore, playing much more to your potential.