As coaches, athletes, leaders and mentors we have all fallen into the trap of trying to emphasize or develop the “will to win.” It sounds good and seems to make sense. It implies giving your best effort, not giving up and trying to become victorious. If you look more closely at developing the will to win, you are actually focusing on things you can’t control. You aren’t controlling the controllables. Your learning, attitude, preparation and effort level are things you can control.
How well your opponent plays on any given day is something you cannot control. Play to play well rather than play to win is what I’ve been emphasizing with the players and teams that I coach. Even with that you can’t always control how you play. In tennis, some days you don’t hit the ball as well as you’d like to. You can, however, control your level of learning. If you open yourself up to learning by controlling what you can control and not focusing on outcomes, but on the process, you will be a better athlete.
This isn’t easy. In life people judge us, whether we like it or not, on our results or what you have done lately. To increase your chances of having an optimal result or performance you need to shift your mindset to one of learning rather than winning. In tennis, on a big point, against a formidable opponent, do you secretly hope that they double fault or make an error? If you are, then you are focusing on the outcome. Focus on playing the best you play can based on what you are given. Have the ‘bring it on’ attitude. Compete with a sense of ‘here is what I am going to do so try to stop me’.
The football coach Jim Harbaugh said “If you’re an individual who’s looking for more work and less fun, you can be a champion.” I’d rephrase that to say that you look for fun in working hard, learning and improving to be the best you can be.
The Urban dictionary definition of the will to win is “the ability to do whatever is necessary in life to achieve your goals in life, sports, or any endeavor you undertake. The will to win is a phrase held by only those who truly believe in the will to do something that others believe one cannot do.”
Interestingly, according to Rob Polishook, a mental training coach, “in martial arts, they don’t differentiate between matches and practice. It’s all called practice. There is an implicit understanding of the process and matches are an environment where players can continually learn, grow, and improve, rather than serving as ‘“judgment day.’”
Vince Lombardi touched on this concept when he said “the will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” Most athletes enjoy winning and therefore have some type of will to win. But the will to prepare or the will to learn – now those athletes are much more rare. If you put your urgency into the preparation and let the performance just happen you’ll be on a better road to success.
It’s not how well you compete but how well you prepare. It’s not how often you win but how often you learn, improve and grow.
Be prepared. Enjoy the process. Don’t let the score or outcome cap your learning potential.
I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.
You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:
Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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