The first thing to understand about a winning mentality is that it has nothing to do with winning.
The highest performers competing at the highest levels – although they do win a lot, and they of course love to win – do not focus on winning.
In fact, the more we focus on winning, the less likely we are to win in the long run.
The Real Focus of a Winning Mentality
The highest achievers in sport don’t focus on winning. They focus on competing. Furthermore, this competitive drive is less often against the other team than it is against themselves.
Top performers are focused on (and at times obsessed with) self-improvement and being the best form of themselves that they can be.
It is through focusing on the process of being their best and the practice of continuous self-improvement that high performing players end up winning games – as a byproduct of their work.
Competition with Others
Ultimately, the highest performers only compare themselves to themselves. But in the heat of a game, the best competitors want to win. The key is, however, that they approach the situation in a healthy and honorable way.
Although there are times of frustration, and although there are times of high emotion, high performers rarely direct negative energy toward other people or opponents.
If a true competitor is beat in a particular play, or even in an overall game, they typically enjoy having been challenged and been able to compete at a comparable level. They then shift their focus on trying to be better in order to hopefully win the next time.
These athletes don’t make excuses for a poor performance or undesirable result. They don’t sulk in their sorrows or dwell in anger about losing. They appreciate the competition and remain focused on improvement going forward.
Lesson for Our Youth Players
For our kids, we must remind them that these are the keys to a winning mentality. They don’t have to win the first, second, or even third time. Instead, they must be motivated by hard work and self-improvement, which will eventually transfer into winning. If our kids want to win and be the best, they need to stop focusing on it. See challenges as opportunities to get better and focus on the process of being their best selves and constantly improving.