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Sport and Exercise Psychology Services

If you are only focussed on winning in sport you are in for an emotional roller coaster!

Over the past few weeks as the sporting summer has really taken off, I have encountered a lot of sportspeople exasperated by not winning. This perceived lack of success is really testing the person concerned's patience and resilience. In actual fact, a small change in your thinking can make a massive impact on your enjoyment and the outcome of your competitions. 

So what is the problem with focussing on winning? After all, isn't every sportsperson's main goal to win? The famous tennis player, Martina Navratilova, said that the moment of sporting victory is too short to play for that alone. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to win. It is inherent in the nature of competitive sport that there will be a winner. But with every winner comes at least one loser. The problem lies in the word 'only'. If you only focus on winning and losing then you are going to struggle to enjoy your sport - particularly when you are not winning. The people mentioned above had become blind to the development they had made due to this single-minded focus.

In every competitive sporting event there is an amazing opportunity to enjoy yourself, develop your skill, enhance your confidence and progress toward a meaningful future goal. However, there is also an equal chance to have a terrible time, undermine your skill, destroy your confidence and move further away from your future goal.

So what to do? A useful and practical strategy is to identify something that you can focus on in the competition, apart from winning, that will help you to develop your game - effectively adding a developmental aspect to your competitive performance. It is perfectly acceptable to continue to want to win the game, however if you can choose an additional target/objective, that is independent of winning or losing, you will have something else to evaluate for progress if you do not win. For example, a tennis player may focus on directing their serve, a golfer may focus on keeping their head down on every shot, a volleyball player may focus on their court positioning and a football player may focus on communicating better with their team-mates. All of these things are not dependant on winning but will help the player develop their game irrespective of the result.

Losing is always a possibility in competitive sport and everybody loses at some point. The key to sporting development and maintaining motivation is to have something extra to focus on - ideally this additional thing will help lead to greater results in the future too.  So remove the only from your competitive focus and start to see the opportunity that exists in losing, as well as winning.

Happy competing.

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