By Ben Loeb (Nov 2021) with excerpts of this article from Dr. Jim Taylor’s Prime Sports Online Newsletter (Nov 2019)
Everyone loves to win. Winning beats the alternative by a long shot. Have you ever seen the team that comes second dog-pile in the middle of the diamond or on the basketball court? Of course not. Winning is certainly the goal for virtually all athletes in competitive athletics. Should having fun be part of the process toward seeking the outcome of winning? Or does having fun get in the way of winning? Does having fun take away your focus from the task at hand?
Benefits of having fun while competing include:
- Reduces distractions and puts you in a positive frame of mind.
- Builds confidence
- Increases motivation
- Keeps you focused in the present and prevents overthinking
- Generates positive emotions, such as joy, excitement, and inspiration.
- Counters negative emotions such as fear, worry, and despair.
- Reduces stress
- Muscle relaxation
- Slows your heart rate
Forces that Counter Fun
- Disappointing results or your self-esteem being tied to your results.
- Slow progress
- High pressure parents or coaches
- A “winning is everything” sports culture
Striving to achieve your best and striving to win at the highest level is not always fun. The chase for excellence and the chase to win can be psychologically wearing, emotionally difficult, and physically grinding. There is a price you pay to be highly successful. Consequently, use fun in a conscious and proactive way by enjoying the process. Have fun in a conscious way by reminding yourself to simply have fun playing the game. Have fun proactively by valuing the striving together with teammates to achieve your goals. Value your practice partner or opponent for putting up obstacles for you to overcome. See the experience as an opportunity to test yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, without the results defining you.
Consequently, let fun be part of the process. It will likely lead to more winning rather than less. Identify ways you can let fun be part of your competitive sport experience.