Were you successful? We seem to answer that question too easily. For many parents, players and coaches, the answer is found in wins and losses. If you scored more points than your opponent, you were successful. If your team has more wins than losses at the end of the season, you succeeded.
That’s just how we measure stuff like success. But should we? There’s a lot more to success than wins and losses. And that’s not just a way to make people on the losing side feel better about themselves. An article in Psychology Today points out the way we measure success should be much more complicated than it is.“You want to provide your children with a definition of success that is motivating, controllable, and will encourage them to both enjoy their sports experiences and inspire them to strive toward their goals with commitment, confidence and courage,” writes Jim Taylor author of Train Your Mind for Athletic Success: Mental Preparation to Achieve Your Sports Goals.
Taylor believes that parents and coaches should help their players define success within their own parameters. For example, everyone agrees that effort and commitment are crucial elements in athletics.
“(We should encourage kids to) throw themselves wholeheartedly into their competitive performances without doubt, worry, or hesitation,” says Taylor. “We should encourage them to give their best effort because if they do everything they can to find success, young athletes will likely experience some level of success, either in sports or in another part of their lives.”
Progressing toward a goal is also a form of success. Progressing means that the player is improving, and improvement is a key part of development.
“A key goal of youth sports participation involves just getting better which, ultimately, will lead to success of some sort,” says Taylor. “If they are progressing, they are experiencing success.”
There are two more elements of youth sports that play a vital role in helping young athletes define success. As much as society tries to downplay it, results are important and probably always will be.
‘Yes, results do matter in sports,” says Taylor. “But the way to get results is to focus on the process of performing. The paradox of results is that by not focusing on them, the results are more likely to come.”
And the last element involved with defining success is, of course, the amount of fun the young player had. Without fun Taylor says, success has little value or meaning.