If you would ask anyone what the most important aspect of playing a sport is, they would undeniably say that it’s the results. In today’s sports community, a winning-above-all mentality is what participating in them has come to. Yes, the many purposes of sports is the competition, but in some cases, this competition can skew the minds of athletes into believing that the ultimate and only goal is to win. Sure, winning may feel nice but it’s not the utmost objective. What really matters is how you play and how you execute the game. The journey is the prize, not the destination.
When I played club soccer, and we were in a tough game, my coach used to say something along the lines of “I don’t care if we lose this game, I just want you to put in your best effort”, and that’s what it’s all about. The fundamental reason of playing is to improve yourself in the sport no matter the results, and improvement comes by playing your best, not necessarily by winning. We play sports because we have a love or passion for the game, and we want to build our skills and reach our individual goals. What we value most about sports shouldn’t be if we were victorious. The score isn’t an accurate depiction of success, your personal achievements made in the process are.
In our culture today, we strive so hard for the title as winner, and this may not even matter because of the costs. Of course there are leagues that teams or individuals want to place well in, but what is it for? A title. Americans expect that title out of teams and athletes. We worship winners, and we forget about everyone else who doesn’t hold that title. These expectations pressure athletes immensely, and this can cause negative effects. This pressure can cause 1) mental stress: anxiety, depression, decline in academics 2) physical stress: overworking the body, eating disorders, use of sports-enhancing drugs, and 3) can even change the morals of a person leading to unethical means to achieve this expectation. The winning-is-everything mentality can be dangerous. Not only to one’s own body, but to others who participate as well.
Even though losing can be undesirable, there are benefits to it. It isn’t a completely negative concept as it provides us with learning opportunities. Losing can build character in a sense of how we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. It also gives us life preparation. There is a harsh reality to life and it’s that we don’t always get the results we want. It’s a good lesson that teaches coping for the future. Lastly, it encourages self-reflection. It forces us to look back on our performance to find room for improvement. As it turns out, losing might not be so bad, so we shouldn’t be so angry with a loss. We shouldn’t be so scared of treasuring losses because good things can come out of them.
To sum things up, our society has normalized that winning is the most important aspect of sports. Even though it can be a positive feat to win, we, as a population, need to implement that it isn’t life or death. We need to stop shaming those who aren’t winners and praise everybody in the sport as a whole. We need to value the journey more than the destination.