We all know that losing can bring opportunities for growth and improvement for athletes. There are lessons to be learned and character developed when a team that ends up on the wrong side of the score allows themselves to look forward and learn from it.
But that does not mean that winning is void of growth opportunities. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for a winning team is how to win like a champion. The mark of a true champion is not just how they handle losing, it’s also how they handle winning.
Young athletes who have faced the hard fact that losing is no fun have been told that there is actually a “right” way to lose. Yes, the score shows a loss, but even then, athletes may achieve personal goals and find smaller victories.
There is also a right way to win. Scoring more points may make a team the victor, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a winner. Winning like a champion goes beyond the scoreboard to include these traits:
Respect for your opponent. No matter how lopsided the score may be, they deserve respect for giving their all and not giving up. That takes guts, especially if the score is heavily lopsided.
Acknowledgement of the team. No matter what star a team may have, the win is never accomplished by one person. A champion winner stays humble in knowing that it always takes a team, no matter who scores all the points.
Recognition of mistakes made and lessons still to be learned. Winning doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone performed flawlessly. Knowing that an athlete hasn’t achieved perfection and in fact, has a long way to go is important if they want to continue to grow. Rejoice in the win, yes; then pick apart the game to learn how to continue to improve.
The belief that we’ve all been there. Winning and losing are no respecters of people. When you win, remember what it feels like to lose and show compassion to the loser. Give them a high five (or elbow in this COVID world) for a hard-fought fight. The shoe will be on the other foot someday and you will want that same courtesy.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many youth sports teams who’ve not been taught how to win like champions. Their cocky attitudes towards their losing opponents actually negates any victory they may think they have won. If you can’t win like a champion, you’re really not a winner at all.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.