As children, we are constantly reminded that “It’s not the winning; it’s the taking part that counts.” While this may hold true for any athlete competing at the amateur level, things get more serious the higher up in a sport that you go. For those with aspirations of turning pro and making a living out of their disciple, winning is a necessary indicator of the success of all the hard hours of training that they have put in. For many young athletes, though, the immense pressure to win can have a negative effect on short and long-term performance levels.
Positive Effects of Winning
Success Breeds Success
Winning is contagious. How many times do we see a batter who has not hit a home run for a long time go on to hit two in the same game? How often do we see a striker in soccer on a goal drought manage to break their lean period with two or three goals in the same game? This phenomenon can be partly explained by the boost in confidence an athlete receives on seeing their effort produce fruits.
Studies in psychology have shown that achieving even a small amount of success in a competition can lead a person to put extra time into their practice. This extra motivation comes from the desire to recapture that winning moment which released an exhilarating rush of dopamine in the victor’s brain. Winning often leads to an intensification of practice, which in turn leads to more success, and so on, quickly creating a snowball effect.
Negative Effects of Winning
Over-confidence is likely to affect most young athletes when they first experience their first few major successes. A mistaken belief that one has enough talent alone to be successful without appreciating the hours and hours of hard work and application that even the best athlete has put in to get the top can be extremely damaging to the progress of a young athlete.
Winning can become an unhealthy obsession that turns the sport that they once loved into a nightmare in which they are constantly comparing themselves with the people that they are competing against. Athletes are subject to so many unpredictable factors, such as injuries, rejection and luck, that can stunt our progress. These factors are completely out of our control, so managing our expectations of where we will be with our progress at a given point in the future and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to succeed is essential if we are to stay positive. Young athletes must not beat themselves up too much when things do not go to plan. After all, learning to deal with unforeseen events in life is a skill that is directly translatable on the pitch, court or track.
It is easy to forget that only one person can win in any competition. Every athlete needs to focus on getting stronger, but with a bit of luck and the right gear, they can increase the probability of success. Try Champion jumpers from Insport on for size to give you an edge over your rival.