Are You Really A Competitor?

This word is thrown around a lot. Do you qualify? Every college coach says she just wants a kid “who knows how to compete”. If it is that important, you need to see if you are on the right path.

It’s time to test yourself.
First, let’s discuss what a competitor is NOT. Just wanting to win does not make you a competitor. The focus solely on winning can lead to shortcuts, lowering the competition level, or stat-watching. Winning is not the primary measurement for a competitor. She would rather play great teams and lose very close games than rack stats in easy wins.
Cheating is never acceptable. A competitor is rewarded by self-satisfaction, not the affirmation of others. Speaking of affirmation, most real competitors are insulted by participation trophies.
Just wanting the ball in big games does not make you a competitor. Sometimes it only means you are selfish. Many of these kids have not shown the discipline to practice regularly, to practice properly, to prepare mentally, have not strengthened their bodies properly, and they have not proven themselves by winning consistently against the best competition. Yet, they complain when they don’t get the ball in big games. That is self-interest over team. That is not the mark of a competitor.
Many people think the loudest kid on the team is the competitor. Not necessarily. That may be the “hotshot” who thinks she has already arrived, or who is covering for low self-esteem because she has not prepared well. A competitor may be quietly digging deeper, on a journey that never ends, or she may be ecstatic and enthusiastic at games because she is fully ready. Loudness, alone, indicates nothing.
Nobody hates losing more than a competitor, but they are not sore losers. They respect those who beat them, determined to use this performance as feedback that they can use to raise their game even further. They want another shot at this opponent. They do not remember a lot of their wins, but can recall almost every loss, along with the lessons learned, and they practice specifically so that it will never happen in the same way again.
A competitor does not relish trophies and hardware. These only serve to confirm she is on the right path.
These people are not cocky, because that word actually indicates someone who no longer feels the need to double-check her preparation. She is always monitoring her steps, careful not to over-estimate her abilities or rely solely on her talent.
The competitor does not want her parents to lobby her coach. She does not rely on the newest gadgets or fancy toys. She never wants someone to use his influence to help her gain status. These things devalue her, indicating that her success is dependent on something outside herself.
A competitor does not complain about fairness. She just wins. If the odds are stacked against her, it’s simply another exciting chance to overcome obstacles and develop the toughness she needs. Dealing with a bad umpire, the heat, or her team making errors, is just another chance to grow and learn.
A competitor is focused on important things. She does not hear detractors in the crowd, insults from the other team, and does not react to any number of distractions that members of her team may experience.
A competitor studies angles, realizing everything in life is about approaching things in ways that gain maximum advantage. She does not do the same thing in the same way over and over, and expect a different result, but constantly looks for a better angle.
A competitor is smart. She does not try to muscle her way through everything. She knows that reaching her goals is a multi-pronged approach. She analyzes, thinks, evaluates, strategizes, and plans. This is perhaps the greatest single difference between those who take it to the top and those who cannot understand why they never arrived. The competitor is consumed by assessing, planning, and evaluating, so that she can prepare in specific ways to reach specific objectives. That is the difference between working hard and working smart.
A competitor works hardest when nobody is watching. Her dreams are often private because they are so big and so personal that she feels others would not understand or appreciate her commitment to them.
A competitor is not a machine who does things one certain way, step-by-step. She avoids those types of inputs. One of the things that stifles many competitors is playing organized sports with coaches who have no clue. He makes her hold the bat exactly this way, stand a certain way, do things in perfect order, and instills a fear that if she gets out of sequence she will fail. This destroys the competitor in her. Competitors are more often built on the playground, in neighborhood basketball games, in family “game night”, or even through academic achievement.
A competitor resents anyone letting her win. She hates losing, but each time she gets closer to beating you, she learns something that will help her next time.
A competitor is stubborn. Sometimes her greatest motivation comes from someone saying she cannot do something. A competitor observes things that others miss, always asking why someone who is successful does things in a certain way, not just copying it, but looking to improve on it.
A competitor knows that her success is largely dependent on the success of people around her. She sees their success as aiding her in reaching her goals, so she spends more time working to help them succeed than calling attention to herself.
When there is a victory, she talks about team. If there is a loss, she is first to accept the blame. She has no time for drama in the dugout or criticism of her coaches. She may not love every individual on her team, but she learns to love them because they are teammates.
Finally, when the season is over she walks toward the car with trophy in hand. She always looks back and remembers the sacrifices that got her here. After a couple of moments of reflection, she looks ahead and asks, “Did I make sufficient progress toward the next, bigger objective?”