I’m sure you have heard the saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts”.  

There are even some others out there, like the one directly from famous tennis star of the 80’s Martina Navratilova.

  “Whoever said, it’s not whether you win or lose….probably lost”.

I think the quote that best sums up sports, and life is: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but why you play the game.

This statement I believe holds a deeper value than a “W” or “L”.  As competitors, we all LOVE to win. Competition is certainly part ofsport, and winning is also a very relevant aspect to competing.

Understanding sport on a bit of a deeper level, is something that I have started to discover, and wish I had unearthed while I was still playing at a high level, or earlier when I was still in love with the game for different reasons.  This perspective, I’m sure would have propelled me to more success, triumph, and self-satisfaction, than the shallower idea of competing to win.

I’m going to lay out 5 laws of competition, that I have been preaching to my kids, and some to the players that have coached.  You can agree, or disagree with them, or the entire sentiment, but at the end of the day, life is too short to have goals that are entirely self-serving and do not help to make you keenly aware of the other players, coaches and parents around you.  


  1. Breathe– Relax.  Have fun! Don’t let the weight of pressures and performance make you anxious.  Nerves are a part of the game, and anxiety does creep in, but at the end of the game, or shift, or season, or career, take a deep breath, reflect, and understand that you are in control of the outcome, no matter what the stat line or the scoreboard says.  
  2. Listen– Be attentive.  Have respect. Your coaches, teammates and parents deserve it.  But don’t just listen….as Wesley Snipes said in White Men Can’t Jump….hear them.  It’s not good enough to listen, but you must try to understand what is being said.
  3. Smile– “It’s just a game Focker”.  Robert De Niro. Why did you first start playing the game?  When did it stop bringing you an amazing amount of joy and happiness.  Don’t smile that you scored a goal, or won a game. Smile because you have an amazing opportunity to enjoy a hugely positive atmosphere, make new friends, travel to new places, and learn new things.  This may sound mushy, but life is too short to have resentment or animosity underlie the important feeling of competing in sport.
  4. Be Gracious– Say thank you to your opponents after a game.  Your coaches. Officials. Parents. Teammates. Without ALL of them, you wouldn’t have the ability to prepare, play and compete.  Sadaharu Oh is the All-Time leader in home runs in professional baseball. More than Mantle, more than Ruth, more than Aaron, and more than Bonds.  He is quoted as saying,

“The opponents and I are really one. My strength and skills only half of the equation. The other half is theirs. An opponent is someone whose strength joined to yours creates a certain result. My opponents are my partners in hitting homeruns.”

5.The most important law….Trust.  This one is the most important, because without trust in ourselves, our coaches, our teammates, we have thoughts that may leave us hopeless.  Your ability only goes as far as you think it can, so you must believe in yourself and the skills and intentions you have.  Cohesion or bonding cannot take place without trust. Messages will not be accepted from coaches without questioning, if trust is not present.  Trust the referees to make the right call. Trust your parents to get you to the game on time. Trust your teammate will give you the pass next time.  Trust that if you work hard enough, your playing time will reflect your effort.

The lessons learned from sport and competing, will always far outweigh the championships, trophies or accolades you receive as a result of your hard work, and sacrifice.  What you are committing to is far bigger and more important than being able to stand on top of the podium, or hoist a cup.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I enjoy losing as long as I learn something or make a new friend.  The message from this note should be that these 5 laws can actually help you to be more successful, and enjoy the process just a bit more.

These small pieces of advice can also lend some solace to competitive ex-athletes who still play the game for fun.  It’s a difficult thing to “hang ’em up”, but once you do, life goes on.  If play sports just to be the best, you’re missing out on a whole lot of beneficial relationships and experiences.

Because…”When the game is over, the King and Pawn all go back in the same box.”