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As a sports dad and coach for two young daughters, it’s hard to avoid the heated debate over Participation Trophies (a debated I’m glad to stay out of). But the debate got me thinking….what does it mean to be “a winner”? After all, this is the word at the heart of the debate: one side believes that only the team of “winners” should get a trophy and the other side believes that every player is a “winner”. So what’s your thought?
The obvious answer is that a winner is someone who wins the game, makes the team, scores the points and gets the recognition. But I believe it’s less about the best or fastest player and more about values and character. Here are the 4 characteristics of a “winner” in my book:
- Pursuit of Perfection: a winner strives to improve their technical skills at every practice, every game and in their free time at home.
- A Smart Player: a winner is a student of the game who maintains situational awareness and understands how to outsmart opponents.
- Physically Fit: a winner understands the importance of a healthy and fit body and works hard to maintain strength, speed and conditioning.
- A Leader in Life Skills: a winner uses leadership and communication to bring out the best in their teammates while showing respect to coaches, referees and opponents.
In 2001, I had the pleasure if speaking with legendary baseball player and coach Don Zimmer of the New York Yankees, just months after they won the world series. I asked Don, of his championship team, who was the player he would never give up. He passed on Roger Clemens (his 20 game winner), Mariano Rivera (his 50 save reliever), Tino Martinez (his leading home run hitter) and Bernie Williams (his leader in slugging percentage) and named Derek Jeter. He said Derek Jeter shows up first to every practice, leaves last and brings up the play of every player around him. He shows grit, hustle and is a positive influence on all of those around him. That’s the “winner” I want on my team.
The Enemy of Excellence in Youth Sports
By: Ian Goldberg
Ian Goldberg is the Founder and CEO of iSport360, a new SportsTech venture bringing objective goals and fair assessments to the parents, coaches and players in the chaotic world of youth sports.