In part I of It’s All In Your Point of View, I detailed a discussion my friend Jim and I had on the way home from a tennis match recently. This discussion centered its focus on the differences between our perspectives on our collegiate sports experiences compared to many of today’s youths, and their parents’, perspective. My purpose was to help answer the question, Why are their perspectives so different? Below is a list of several intrinsic-type components that, in my mind, help an athlete develop a better more positive perspective and, in the end, bring more enjoyment and fulfillment back to them. At least if they stay much more focused in these areas as their reasoning behind why they play.
I. Competitive Spirit
Competitive athletes are just that because of the sheer enjoyment they get out of, simply, competing. Yes of course they like to win (and hate to lose). Who doesn’t? However, win or lose, they relish in the competitive situations that consistently present themselves when one competes. It is fun for them.
II. Perfect Mastery
Rather then merely focusing on “winning” or defeating an opponent, I always found it much more beneficial (and much more rewarding) to concentrate on mastering the skills of my craft. To center one’s attention on any single or particular competition or championship is self-limiting because there is an end result, one way or the other. On the other hand, working toward mastery has much more relevance to an athlete’s potential, something that can move in several directions. This, to me, is where real “winning” takes place – within the athlete themselves. It is much more self-satisfying and because of this tends to have long-term and lasting effects for the athlete.
III. Self-Reflection of Performance
Closely tied to perfect mastery above, this is the consistent evaluation of your performance and dedication to improving on that performance through your training on a daily basis. Whether you win or lose, putting forth efforts in this area will help teach you how to compete against yourself. You become your own measuring stick for improvement. Doing so places your rate of development in your own hands, something you have direct control over. I drew a great deal of pride and gained a tremendous amount of self-satisfaction and enjoyment from doing this. In addition, this aspect was a very important factor in the accomplishment of the goals I had set in my sport.
IV. Enjoyment Over Doing Things Well
This element has to do with truly enjoying the physical movements through the signals your body gives back to you when you perform a skill and/or play exceptionally well. The feelings you get from perfect execution and/or the internal delight over movement as an art form. Whether you field a difficult ground ball as if it were second nature, pass a problematic volleyball serve right to target, execute a perfect spin and/or jump in skating, or hit an ace serve in tennis, you know (as the athlete performing the skill) exactly what is about to happen as you make contact with the ball and/or progress through the physical movements to execute the skill. Basically, you know when it is done just right – and it feels very, very good. It is these feelings I personally relished as an athlete and that kept me coming back day in and day out. I truly enjoyed the physical feedback I got from doing things well, and I was relentless in attempting to repeat it time and time again. It was a big factor in keeping my interest in moving up the ladder toward my potential, helping me always try to be better in my training today than I was yesterday and, I think, from becoming truly “burned out.”
In looking over the four components listed and discussed above, you cannot help but notice the intrinsic nature of them. I am a firm believer that it is this intrinsic nature of where my and my friend Jim’s focus was at during our competitive years that helped greatly in the development of our more positive perspective on our youth sports experiences. I still seek and receive enjoyment out of sports/activities I participate in today using the four aspects discussed in this article. It has never been all about winning, the scholarship, or any other extrinsic factor but more about being the best one can be. I think this really helps in making all the difference.