Why We Should Celebrate Performance at the Rio Olympics—Not Just Results

If coaches get athletes to tie their self-worth to winning, it makes the transition out of Olympic sport all the more difficult. Instead, the outlook needs to shift to coaching the whole person.

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In almost every instance young athletes learn that winning, not losing is the preferred outcome in competition. They learn it from their coaches, from their teachers, from their parents, from teammates, and their peers. A few games into their season, it doesn’t take them long to discover that when they win, everyone tends to be happier. Understandably, winning is fun and we generally celebrate our successes. The trouble is they also end up learning that losing is less fun—even wrong in some instances. And, that’s where the damage often begins.

I can still remember winning my first hockey game when I was ten years old. Man, that was fun! Our coach was thrilled. Our parents were overjoyed—one of the dads even bought donuts for the whole team. Naturally, as young hockey players, we were pretty excited as well. I mean, what was not to like? We had free donuts! And, our head-coach was in a good mood.

As much as I remember that glorious moment of stuffing my face with a chocolate glazed donut, I also remember the first time we lost. Talk about climate change! It was like Old Man Winter himself came into the change room. The coaches…