More than the Score: How Sports Helps You Win in the Game of Life

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

  1. Focus on progress… Are kids becoming better players and better people because they are playing sports?
  2. Instead of Winning and Losing, use the phrase Winning and Learning.
  3. 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!


Jason Holzer
Jason Holzer
Growing up in Taos, Missouri, Jason was raised in a small town with a loving family that gave him every chance to succeed. His parents were supportive and provided everything this 17-year-old could ever want. That is until his life changed forever on May 8, 2003, when his dad unexpectedly passed away by suicide leaving him, his mother, and two younger sisters behind. Through hard work, dedication, and a strong faith in God, He is now a certified teacher, accomplished basketball, and mental fitness coach. He is also a Post-Traumatic growth storyteller and the Co-Founder of 4D Athletes. His book “Shattered by Suicide, Renewed by Resilience: How to Move Forward After Being Left Behind” is an Amazon Best Seller and is positively influencing thousands of readers every year. #ACT2impACT

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  1. Your post was a good kick off for today’s Friendshipbench where the talk was on inclusion and fairness.

    I our break-out, I noted that Norway had gotten away from the Winter Olympics with so many medals because, in their words, they had the whole country as a recruitment base. If you couldn’t pay the $10 season fee to get coached on the town ski hill, you just didn’t pay, and ranking of children was prohibited until they turned 12. So it was play and learning, not really competing, most of the kids’ childhood.

    Apparently, it doesn’t make the end result worse if we don’t push the kids, so perhaps pushing is more about the coach’s need for power than the kids’ need for discipline? Or because the competitions are a business? Or…

  2. Thanks, Jason.
    I appreciate any impetus toward redirecting the world of competition. Too often we forget that ‘to win’ can morph into ‘everyone else must lose.’ When I was in the yacht charter business, I would get calls from organizations who wanted to do “team building” by splitting their folks into groups and having them race against each other on sailboats. It took some convincing, but I was sometimes able to suggest an alternative: that all the teams, all the boats, must work together to solve a navigation problem/scavenger hunt that was challenging, fun, and needed collaboration to succeed. That way their competitive juices could flow without turning them against each other.
    We can also stop using ‘better’ and ‘worse’ and focus on contribution. Especially now.
    Be well.