“When the Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he marks not that you won or lost, but how you played the game” –Grantland Rice
We live in a highly competitive society that is obsessed with winning. Most players experience tremendous pressure, fear and anxiety generated by an overwhelming obsession to win. Without realizing it, we pass this on to our children starting from the instant they’re born. Children are constantly measured with grades, win/loss records. etc. Society echoes this chase for the win with the “Thrill of victory, agony of defeat” mentality.
This approach, where winning alone is the ultimate goal, has given rise to questionable ethical and moral means in competition and has distorted the standards of success. The overwhelming desire to win, rather than succeed, can be seen played out in the anger, fear, stress and dishonesty that plagues our sports and society today.The result of our overwhelming desire to be number one can be seen in definite dysfunctional behavior patterns. Unrealistic expectations result in frustration and anger and some players seek unattainable perfection. Players with poor self-esteem blame others when things go wrong as they are unable to accept failure on their own.
As players, coaches, teachers and parents, we tend to lose sight of why we’re playing sports in the first place. Aside from being enjoyable and healthy, tennis, like many other sports, can prepare us for the challenges we will face in life. The way you meet challenges on court reflects the way you will meet them in life. Playing a sport should be thought of as a spiritual journey that combines physical and mental activities. The journey has no final destination, because you will be evolving and constantly thinking in new ways about how to play.
Winning should be a by-product of performance. As in life, optimal performance in tennis is created by a passion for what we do. Passion encourages commitment, discipline, hard work and continuous search for excellence. Optimal performers strive to be the best they can be every day. They are more interested in how they’ve played the game than the outcome. Pressure situations are challenges, not threats for them and they are not afraid to take risks. Rather than becoming discouraged from losing, they become motivated to improve.
If you want your kids and players to succeed, stop focusing on the importance of winning and encourage them to perform.