LESSONS learned through working hard; eating humble pie; and embracing the suck.
Athletics can be a vehicle to strengthen and reveal character. Look no further than an athlete on the court playing with all their heart to see what I mean.
Here are a few things playing sports can teach:
• Never give up. Even when you are down with seconds to go, it ain’t over till it’s over. If you fight until the final buzzer, sometimes it goes your way. The hungriest team often wins. And, some of the best moments occur in the last minutes of a close game.
• The body will do what the mind will let it. If you believe you can you are correct; If you think you can't, you are also correct. As an endurance sports coach, I saw this hundreds of times. I could predict how an athlete would finish a race based on their pre-race mindset.
• Getting an assist is as important as scoring. A selfless play is usually best for the team. Sometimes the “one-more” is the better shot. Learning when to pass and when to shoot is a sign an athlete is developing a high game IQ.
• You can be kind and still play like be a beast. Going full-throttle, playing with unabashed passion makes you beautifully strong. Learning a balance of grace and grit takes time. You can do both.
• When the game is over, leave it on the court. Competing should never stop you from shaking hands and congratulating the other team. When you win, don't boast. When you lose, don't make excuses. Always thank your parents, coach, and the referees.
• Everyone has a job. No ONE wins or loses a game. Each player has a job. Together, teams are victorious. Defeats are collectively shared. Sports are partly about self-improvement, but individuals don't make the team. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
• There is a lot to learn from losing. Sometimes the most significant growth comes in defeat. Swallow your pride and look for the lesson. If you make a mistake, take a bite of humble pie, and own it, learn from it, and move on.
• Listen to your coach. Even if you don’t agree, he/she is the captain trusted to steer the ship. They know more than you do about the game. Let them do their job. Some coaches may be OK with just being good. A great coach will see untapped potential and expect greatness.
• Be a good teammate. If you see a chin turn down, reach your hand out. Give a pat on the back. Encourage. Don't discourage. Never criticize, instead, praise effort. Sportsmanship is a verb. Do it.
• Don’t be cocky. There is a significant distinction between confidence and arrogance. Learn the difference. Deflate your ego. Practice humility.
• Hard work pays enormous dividends in sports and in life. You can do little to affect your natural talent and born-ability, but you can control how hard you work. Effort and tenacity will separate you from those who rest on their laurels.
• You'll never know how much you have left in the tank if you don't step on the gas. Don't quit when it gets tough. If you stop halfway, you will never learn what you are capable of enduring. Always touch the line and hustle back. Embrace the suck.
• Practice makes progress. If you are going to compete, you will never be perfect. It doesn’t exist and isn't necessary. Instead, practice making progress. Persistence will take you farther than striving for perfection.
• Have fun. Life is short. Youth sports are fleeting. Enjoy the process. Laugh with your teammates and play with unabashed joy.
In the end, playing and competing is a way to develop skills that will carry through in life. The trophies will sit on dusty shelves, but the memories and lessons will last a lifetime.
"I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan