The sooner we stop teaching our kids winning does hold the answer, the sooner media, commercial sponsors and all other avenues of sport promotion might stop their avid perpetuation of the all conquering, gladiatorial myth we so dearly love and worship. We’re not saying stop the contest. We’re not suggesting there shouldn’t be competition, winners and losers. We’re saying: change the reasons why we compete and what the outcomes represent.
No matter how good you are, how much money you make or how big the stage on which you play, the game remains ever a game, being only another expression of life, with exactly the same human elements being demonstrated within as there are without.
Sport brings to its players life experiences like any other activity and if we see them as somehow separate or different, such distinctions are solely of our own creation. It is this very fact however, that sport both embodies and in turn reflects Life in its entirety, along with it’s extreme capacity to emotionally engage participants, that makes it potentially one of the most powerful teaching / learning tools of the coming generation. It is a microcosm of life, and at the same time, it is life itself. Here we can move on from winning and begin to see what a broader vision of success can bring.
A functionally effective philosophy of competition requires total congruency between each aspect of one’s sporting value system and that of “outside” life. When there is congruency, you will not only realise there exists no distinction between how you live and how you play, but also no difference in what you consider to be important or motivating across sporting and non-sporting realms.
“I, for one, hold no fears for the future of sport, in particular our great game. As this generation of footballers continue their careers, potential earnings have accelerated rapidly. Even so, the money focus that has occasionally been levelled at the current crop does not make sense. Players who play for money don’t play for long. If you don’t eat, live and breathe it, you start behind and don’t catch up. Footy is not a money-making scheme; it is a way of life and it will continue to be. To me, football has been my life. The game and all the people I’ve been involved with have taught me discipline, respect, commitment to a cause and the importance of trust and consistency.
Let’s hope that despite the increases in remuneration, the future generations involved in the game choose to experience the full gamut of emotions, the highs and lows, because they share not a passion to earn but a passion to play.” – NATHAN BUCKLEY, Sunday Herald Sun – Saturday, May 12, 2001
Through their increased motivation and commitment in the face of challenging objectives, athletes have the opportunity to confront, learn from and move through life lessons at an accelerated rate. In order to win, they work harder and endure greater hardships (in the form of pain, discomfort, duress and work); arguably compressing lifetimes of development and personal evolution into years, or even months.
Imagine what more would be possible if instead of doing it to win a sporting event, they set out in search of their ultimate potential using sport as their vehicle.
The quality and nature of lessons athletes learn from their sporting experiences will invariably be determined by the dreams that initially inspire them.
Every experience is a potential lesson. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn. If the deeper “game” employed a more aware “curriculum”(what the experience teaches) and meaningful method of “assessment” (measure of success), the next generation of athletes, coaches and spectators could bring about fundamental changes in the culture of sport and the way it was presented to the masses.
The transition period would be long, turbulent and often confusing but eventually the public would buy it. They would buy it because they would see a transcendent level of competition, as limitations fell by the wayside. Winning and losing would still happen but ultimately, the reasons we competed and what the outcomes represented, would be different. This is the nature of evolution and though it is slow and often difficult to observe, Humanity is still evolving.
Get clear what level you are playing or coaching at by asking one simple question: “Why am I doing this?” Your honest, heart-depth answer will show you your true goal. Once you have that, you also possess the opportunity to consciously override any negative, subconscious programming that may be limiting your outcomes. You do that, by choosing the one goal that opens you to all possibility: Being the absolute best you can be.
Understand once again that all other measures are merely red herrings offered by our egos because they provide the “illusion” of success and are in general, far easier to achieve. Winning, money, fame, power, influence – they all serve our need to impress or surpass others and reveal nothing more than our existing, very limited ballpark of performance.
True success is full expression of our gifts and abilities through overcoming challenges that take us to the edge of our skill. It is never a destination but a journey of evolution and constant change. It remains ever independent of comparative measures that indicate how “good” we are in relation to anyone else.
Only when we can refocus our personal understanding, will the potential and power of this concept fully emerge.
THE NEED TO WIN GROWS OUT OF FEAR
The more those kids are told they should, need to, must win, the more they’ll fear, be anxious about and feel a growing terror of everything that is NOT winning.
The number one reason for playing or coaching at any time of your career, irrespective of ability or level, needs to be because you enjoy it. When you stop enjoying it, do something else.
Ask yourself these simple questions one more time:
- Do athletes play better when they are enjoying themselves, or fearful of failure?
- Do they learn faster when free to experiment and risk, or being pressured to win?
- Do they perform closer to their peak when feeling positive about their ongoing life journey, or when their entire self esteem and worth hinge on “succeeding” at a particular, arbitrarily scored competition?
Now, lets start doing something about the answers.
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