Winning Isn't Everything But It IS A Mentality

coaches parents players Aug 21, 2023
winning mentality

Is winning really THAT important?

Every kid (or adult) wants to win when they compete. The desire to win is built into our psyche but I also believe that you can become more of a 'winner' with the right mentality and this can be learned. Let me explain.

Before I explain, let me say that desperately wanting to win isn't a bad thing. It should not be the absolute focus for youth sports but it has to play a part in coaching/learning because while we play the game to improve, we also play it to win (whether the score is explicitly kept or not).

Some kids (and adults) want to win more than others. Some people take every game or contest extremely seriously while others are not so fierce in chasing the victory, even though they still want to win.

I have been part of the former category since I was 8 or 9 years old and that mindset has never changed. In fact, it has strengthened over time. I remember competing like my life depended on it as a kid (in everything from soccer to tennis and many other sports) and I still compete in the same way now as a 43 year old adult.

What does a winning mentality look like?

Well, it doesn't mean you need to be so focused on winning that your world collapses when you lose. We all lose and we have to learn how to deal with it.

For me, a winning mentality means that a player (or athlete in any sport) has the mindset of pushing themselves as far as they can possibly go in order to improve and give themselves the best possible chance of winning every contest they take part in.

You do extra training, you study tactics and games, you are disciplined in how you eat, sleep and live. You put yourself in the best possible position to be a winner, simple.

Does that mean you will automatically win? No, of course not. But it means that you can leave the field or court or whatever it is, knowing that you prepared right and gave your all. That is worth more than anything.

How do you develop this mentality?

Time. Patience. Dedication. You have to lose (a lot).

Going through difficult moments, individually and collectively, helps to shape our mindset as long as we are honest and objective with ourselves and with teammates.

When you win or lose, it is important to reflect decisively:

  • Did you lose because you played poorly or because your opponent was simply better than you?
  • How much of a part did luck play? (it plays a bigger part than you think in most sporting contests)
  • Did you give everything you had and did your teammates do the same?

By reflecting objectively on these questions, you can figure out what you need to do in order to improve.

It might be that you come out of the reflection realizing that you need to go into every tackle or sprint with 100% commitment instead of only committing to some of the moments.

It might be that you emerge realizing that luck played a big role and nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome in this particular contest.

A winning mentality means more improvement over time

People can contest this statement but I believe it to be true. If you have a winning mentality, you are more likely to do whatever is necessary to win. That doesn't mean cheating (although it can mean pushing the boundaries of rules), it means you will sprint back 60 yards to chase down an opponent when another player without that winning mentality would just give up.

It means you will train harder. Why? To win, you have to train harder to get that competitive advantage. It's a mindset.

Because of this commitment and drive to do whatever it takes to improve and win, over time you'll almost certainly improve more than those people without that mentality. They can still attend all of the same training sessions as you but if they don't have the same mentality, they won't put in quite as much effort and this shows up clearly over an extended period.

Don't shy away from the big W. If harnessed in the right way, it can be a powerful learning tool. Someone please tell Sean Dyche and Everton. 


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