3 Ways to Help Your Child Achieve Real Success When It Really Matters


Everyone loves to win, and the truth is – for each of us – every day there is winning that needs done. Competition exists wherever we are in life – in sports, at work, and at home. Sometimes that competition pits you against someone else. Sometimes it’s you against the elements or the circumstances you’re facing, and sometimes it’s simply you against yourself, against the best you're capable of. No matter where, when, or why you’re competing, I think you’d agree: winning beats losing any day of the week.

If you’re a sports parent, then you probably love seeing your child win, too. In fact, seeing him or her succeed might be one of the few things you enjoy more than winning yourself. If you’re working to raise a champion – an athlete and person who reaches their full potential – then I’m sure you’re busy instilling in them the will to win. But it’s worth considering today when exactly you want your child to win. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden, at the top of his Pyramid of Success, called competitive greatness “being at your best when your best is needed.” So if you’re serious about helping your child win, on the playing field and beyond, then it’s worth considering...when is your child's bestreally needed? And are you doing all you can to make sure they'll be ready when they get there?


Here are three ways to help your young athlete develop their own competitive greatness, and achieve success when it really matters:

Keep the big picture in mind.

Despite the pressure, judgment, and lack of perspective that's prevalent in today's youth sports culture, it’s important to remember that athletic success is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a lot your child needs to learn and develop in order to become his/her very best. This includes not only developing their technical, sport-specific skills – like dribbling, passing, shooting, kicking, blocking, or swinging, for instance. It also includes the behavioral skills they’ll need to become their best – toughness, perseverance, selflessness, and courage, to name a few. These abilities, both the physical and the mental, can't be developed in a day. They take attention and intention to cultivate over time.

Developing the will to win is important, but as a parent, if that’s all you care about developing, then you’re missing out on some of your most important work. Make sure you see the big picture. Of course, we all want our kids to win today, but emphasizing your child's growth and improvement – both physically and mentally – needs to be part of your perspective.

If your young athlete isn’t the best player on his or her team today, it's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean they'll never have what it takes. Remember, athletic success is a marathon, not a sprint. Plenty of those young athletes being led today by a short-sighted, win-at-all-costs parent will burn out or stop developing before things really get important. If you’ve prepared your child for success with the big picture in mind, you’ll be happy to see where he/she ends up.

Develop a “Next Play” mentality.

One of the biggest challenges to success for a young athlete is the struggle to play present. Unfortunately, kids can focus too much attention on whatever happened in the past, or too much attention on whatever might happen in the future. Looking back or looking ahead takes the focus off what really matters – the here and now. As much as we’d love to blame this on the youth and immaturity of our children, this is a challenge we all face, even as adults, isn’t it? Helping our kids succeed when it really matters requires that we help them develop a “Next Play” mentality.

This mindset is focused on controlling what’s controllable. It’s your job to help your kids understand that time we spend dwelling on the past or worrying about the future robs us of the power we do have – the power to have an impact right where we are. Help them see that struggle, failure, and adversity are a part of any success story, and that it’s usually not the athlete that plays perfectly who wins; instead the winner is the one who can most effectively move on from what they’ve done imperfectly.

Of course, the best way to help your child come to this important understanding is by modeling it yourself. If, as a sports parent, you’re constantly dwelling on what’s happened already or worrying about what’s to come, then you can’t be at your best. When you choose a “Next Play” mentality for yourself, and then live it out for your child to see, you help them develop it, too, and help them find success, right where they are today.

Remember, champions > championships.

I want to challenge and encourage you to make your daily focus less on getting a win and focus more on developing a winner. Hopefully you can see that it’s entirely possible for your child to win a game and play like a loser – lazy, soft, selfish, or negative. At the same time, it’s entirely possible for your child to lose a game and compete like a champion – relentless, courageous, selfless and tough. The most effective way to help your child achieve success when it really matters is to focus less on today's outcome, and focus more on the daily process of becoming his/her best. Ironically, this method ends up producing more championships, too.

The truth is, if we do it right, there’s no better training ground for preparing our kids for success in life than their experience in sports. If you miss out, you'll regret not using this great opportunity, especially when they're unequipped to face the real tests in life as an adult. They will be tested – as a spouse , a parent, a professional, and a friend, and what you're building and developing in them on the playing field today will impact who they are forever. The results of these games, despite their importance now, will have drifted from both your minds, and the trophies will be boxed in a basement or tossed in the trash. Whatever your child got as an athlete – a spot on the team, a few points in the scorebook, even an award for their performance – will be gone for good. What they became, however, will remain.

Develop in your child the will to win, but please don’t stop there. See clearly today what it takes to help them achieve their own personal competitive greatness. Prepare them today to be their best when it matters most.


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