Why it's important for athletes to learn humility

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/22/2017

There’s a lot of focus on building athletes’ self esteem, and although it is very important, it’s just as important that your kids learn the virtue of humility.

In the book Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn, author John Maxwell says that “the good become the very best due to humility.”

He gives the example of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who won every award and received every accolade in his profession. He was the first person named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

Wooden had to learn humility before he could excel in his sport. As an outstanding athlete, he was headed towards becoming a prideful and uncoachable athlete until one day his coach decided to challenge that.

One afternoon, Wooden forgot his uniform and did not want to run the mile back to his farm to get it before the basketball game. He figured that since he was the best player on the team, there was no way the coach was going to bench him. However, he was wrong.

When it came clear that I would not be allowed to play without the uniform, I talked a teammate into going home to fetch it for me. After all, I was the star, right? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to ask a favor or two from the benchwarmers? With that attitude, it’s no wonder that the game started without me in it. When I tried to reason with Coach, pleading with him to let me play because it was clear we were outmatched with our new starting lineup, he told me very simply, “Johnny, there are some things more important than winning.”

When he was 13, Wooden had all the qualities that many arrogant leaders have. He thought he was better than others and that he didn’t have to obey by same rules as others. But fortunately, he had a coach who believed that learning humility was more important than winning.

Maxwell explains why: “Humility is foundational to all people who learn from their wins and losses. It is a key to success at the highest level.”

You may be able to name a dozen people who’ve achieved a lot with arrogant attitudes, but think what might they might have done if they’d been humble enough to admit they still needed to learn.

Humility opens the door for your athlete to keep learning and become even better athletes. Don’t neglect this virtue as you seek to build your kids up.

Want to learn more? Check out USA Football's Youth Football Parents 101 course here.

Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.