more than winning
Everybody loves to win. If you’re a competitor like me, I’m sure you love to win yourself. And if you’re a competitive sports parent – like me – then you really love seeing your child win. I think we’d all agree that winning and the pursuit of winning is a good thing, for us and for our kids. Just as we live in a competitive world today, our kids will be competing all their lives, too. That means developing our kids’ will to win is an important part of helping them become their best. But I want you to see clearly today that for the champion sports parent, it’s bigger than that. For the champion sports parent, the experience is about more than winning; it’s about building and developing a winner.
What’s the difference, you might be wondering? The difference is that winning is something you do – it’s a result or an outcome. A winner is something you become – it’s a process of growing and developing. Winning is a one-time event; becoming a winner is more like an everyday commitment. Winning is something you need a scoreboard to validate. But a winner doesn't need anything or anyone else to tell them that they played like a winner. As a champion – in sports and in life – that’s something they can validate for themselves.
Winning is a one-time event; becoming a winner is more like an everyday commitment.
The problem today is, we have a tendency to focus so much on whether our child won or lost that we overlook whether or not they played like a winner. I hope you can see that it’s entirely possible for any athlete – including yours – to win a game and still play like a loser. Despite the positive outcome, he can be lazy, selfish, or negative. Every time he’s faced with a challenging circumstance, he can crumble to pieces. He can disrespect his coach, the referee, his teammates, or his opponent. He can do all that and still luck his way into having more points on the scoreboard than the other team. He can win the game, and of course that counts for something. But I hope you can see, the scoreboard doesn’t always tell the whole story.
There's danger when, as a sports parent, you only focus on the outcome. If your child plays like a loser but still lucks into winning, and then comes over afterward and hears from you, “You won! I’m so proud of you!” then you’re helping to clarify for him what you really value, and in turn helping him determine – in his own mind – what he should value, too. It’s not about my effort, or toughness, or courage, he can say. It’s not about how I treat people or how I overcome adversity. It’s not about my attitude. It’s only about the score. When your words and actions affirm beliefs like that in the mind of your child, then his focus and attention will move away from what's most important – that everyday commitment to being his best. Ironically, a singular focus on winning actually keeps your child from getting better in the areas that are most important to winning. Funny, huh?
Just as the champion sports parent can see it’s possible for their young athlete to win the game and play like a loser, they also see that their child can lose the game and play like a champion. Even in defeat, it’s possible he’s exhibited the qualities of a winner. He’s given his very best. He’s shown toughness and courage and persistence. When things got hard, he buckled down and kept competing. He was good to his teammates and respected his coach, the referee, and his opponent. Despite his inspired, determined effort, it wasn’t enough on the scoreboard. He’s disappointed, and you probably are, too. Losing the game counts for something, for sure, but you also know the scoreboard doesn’t always tell the whole story.
There’s a benefit to focusing on more than just the outcome. When he plays like a champion, even though his team lost, and then comes over afterward and hears from you, “You competed like a winner. I’m so proud of you!” then you’re helping to clarify for him what you really value, and in turn helping him determine – in his own mind – what he should value, too. The score matters, of course, but that’s not all that matters, he can say. My effort and my toughness and my courage matter, too. How I treat people and how I respond to adversity matter. My attitude matters. When your words and actions affirm beliefs like that in the mind of your child, then you’re on your way to building and developing the mindset of a champion.
Developing your child’s will to win is an important part of helping him become his best, but I hope you’re willing to see that as a champion sports parent, it’s bigger than that. I hope you see that you’re also responsible for developing your child’s effort and toughness and courage. His persistence, his selflessness, and his respect. The mediocre sports parent overlooks all those things in their naive pursuit of success. But for the champion sports parent, winning is about way more than just winning.
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