Training Competitors: Part 2

In last week’s post we began to look at training competitors. How do we get kids in our programs that just truly love the act of competing? The answer is by training your coaches and players to view competition in a Biblical way. This can be done through properly defining competition and by rewiring your athletes concepts of what it means to be a competitor. Join us today as we look at the final three points to training competitors in Christian school athletics.

Emphasize the Process

NBA legend and logo Jerry West has said numerous times that he hated to lose more than he liked to win. West further goes on to explain that it was his fear of losing that drove him to practice long hours everyday.

Hearing this as a younger coach, I remember thinking, “Man, I wish I had players that hated losing that much.” However, now I hear that and I think, “What a horrible way to live the life God has given us.”

Think about it. Living in constant fear of failure would be the most nerve-racking thing imaginable. Especially for someone who competed everyday at the highest level possible.

In training competitors, we need to do our best to discourage this type of thinking. Instead we need to emphasize the process of individual and team improvement. Make this part of athletics at your school the most exciting thing.

We all know that you can have a good win/loss record and leave the season unfulfilled because the players never fell in love with the process of getting better.

Really emphasize the joy that can be found in competition outside of game day. Whether it’s running against your personal best time on the track by yourself, or taking free kick after free kick on the soccer field late into the summer evening, teach your kids that these instances are what make sports enjoyable.

Just like rewiring your athletes, emphasizing the process will produce toughness to view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.


Diminish Results

Practically every basketball coach in the country deifies John Wooden. The “Wizard of Westwood” was one of the most successful coaches to have ever lived. Many of his players recount that they never heard Coach Wooden talk about winning the next game. He is also said to have never scouted an opposing team.

Coach Wooden was a competitor. He wanted to win. However, his strength and what set him apart was the commitment to the process of building the best basketball team possible on the practice floor. He diminished the results. He was most concerned with the process of becoming the best team possible.

You may not think that Coach Wooden is a great example of someone who diminished results. Check out his definition of success and tell me where it mentions winning.

Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Carol Dweck also mentions in her study that children that were praised for results shied away from accepting challenges. Whereas children that were praised for their diligence and hard work in solving problems were more eager to accept difficult tasks.

Want to train competitors? Then stay away from just praising positive results.


Highlight the Helpers

In their book Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork, Kevin Pritchard and John Eliot, Ph.D. talk about the necessity of having people in your organization who are “front of the jersey” people.

By this they mean that these people will do everything for the name on the front of their jersey before they even think about the name on the back.

Nothing could be more true in training competitors. We must recognize all aspects that go into making the competition more enjoyable. We also need to recognize all the aspects (people) that contribute to success.

Under-appreciated people typically underwork and underperform.”

Highlight the girl who leads the team in charges taken. Celebrate the baseball player that works pitchers late into the count and still gets on base. Praise the offensive lineman that never gets credit for touchdowns.

Knowing that every job is important will help create the competitive drive that is desired.


This concludes our discussion on training competitors. Do you agree or disagree with some of our points? Do you think we missed any key thoughts. Let us know! We’d love to engage with our readers via email or twitter. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Jeff is the athletic director at Victory Baptist Academy. He is also the founder and administrator of

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Training Competitors: Part 2

  1. Great list! All of these can be managed by the way the department philosophy is passed down to and through coaches. We try to emphasize having fun and learning how to compete (your first point). We also talk quite a bit about how winning is a by-product, not the goal (your second point). As you said, not putting the focus on winning doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying to win! It’s a tough concept for a lot of people to understand, though. Good post – well done.