Many times in sports we tend to focus on the end result. Most of the time the first question we ask when someone has finished a sporting event is “Did you win?” and if the answer is no then the natural follow-up is “Did you at least have fun?” The problem with asking “Did you win?” as the first question is that we are directing the athlete’s attention to the scoreboard.
They will start to place their value on their performance and what is going on in their outside world. When they win, they will probably feel heightened levels of excitement, happiness, and other positive emotions. On the other hand, whenever they lose they are going to feel heightened levels of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and other negative emotions. We are missing out on opportunities to teach them essential life skills and life lessons.
Here are some questions to consider to redirect our thinking about the purpose of sports:
- How do we keep sports enjoyable for all athletes?
- What is the purpose of sports?
- What key life lessons can be taught through sports?
- Why do we play sports?
There is no question that winning is always more fun than losing, but over the years I have found that I learned more from my losses than from my wins. In fact, I have told some of my teams in the past that whether we win or lose, there will always be something to learn and improve upon. I also tried to look for the teachable moments within the game and what can be taken away after the game is over.
When my teams won, I wanted them to think about what the key factors were that ultimately lead to us winning:
- Did we display perseverance?
- Were we focused?
- Did we play as a team?
- Did we encourage one another?
- How can we repeat what we did well to have similar success in the future?
When my teams lost, I wanted them to think about what the key factors were that ultimately led us to fall short:
- Were we prepared?
- Did we give our best effort? (Sometimes the other team is just better)
- How can we get better?
- What do we need to eliminate to improve? (Bad attitude, blaming others, not taking responsibility)
Sports provide the perfect environment to teach and instill essential life skills. They help reveal areas in our life that we need to improve upon such as managing emotions, building perseverance, how to set goals, build relationships… etc.
When we are able to see every sporting event as an opportunity to grow and improve, the scoreboard is more of a guide as opposed to an end result. We can use sports to develop and equip athletes with essential life skills that will benefit them long after their playing days are over.
Let’s look at the bigger picture for a moment. The harsh reality is that fewer than 2% of college athletes play professional sports, which means more than 98% of college athletes go on to become a professional in other fields besides playing sports.
Therefore, when athletes have also developed the essential life skills, they are able to pivot from sports and find success in other areas of their life outside of athletics. They can take those essential life skills of gratitude, perseverance, goal setting, etc, and directly apply them to every aspect of their life.
It’s time to use sports as a training ground for life. Keep in mind there is more than the score, there is an opportunity in sports to mold greatness in every player and to turn them into extraordinary and impactful men and women.
Here are three tips that can help us focus on more than the score
- Focus on progress… Are kids becoming better players and better people because they are playing sports?
- Instead of Winning and Losing, use the phrase Winning and Learning.
- Prioritize giving your best effort… Sometimes other teams are just better. Encourage players to be satisfied with the result if they know they gave their best.
It’s Go Time! Realize there is more than the score, feel the excitement of athletes win in the game of life. Celebrate the little victories and encourage them to continue to better themselves daily! You’ll be so glad you did!