Playing to Win vs Playing for Fun: The Better Approach to Sports

As a child, Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest hockey players who ever lived, would watch games with pen and paper and sketch the trajectory of the puck. Later in life, people were baffled by how he always knew where the puck was going to be.

Many famous athletes are known for their intense desire to win. Some would say that, to achieve excellence, you have to be obsessed.

Playing to win takes a lot more than talent. Read on to learn about what motivates us to compete.

The Psychology of Winning

Sports psychology was formally studied for the first time in the 1920s. The goal was to give analysis and therapy to athletes to improve their performances.

Since then, this has taken to mean different things. There is some debate as to whether it should be considered a branch of psychology, physical therapy, or if it should be its own field of study.

Dialed in

Have you ever felt like you were in ‘the zone’? Some called it ‘dialed in’, ‘on fire’, or ‘feeling it’. 

Psychologists call it ‘flow’. Its a state of concentration, energy, and enjoyment while performing an activity. All types of artists can experience this but athletes can too.

A big part of having a winning mindset is being able to tap into your flow state.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady has won 219 regular-season games and six Super Bowls playing quarterback for the New England Patriots. These are both NFL records.

Cheating accusations aside, its clear that he is always playing to win. He has stated that a win by all means mentality is the mark of a “true competitor”. 

He credits much of his longevity as a top athlete to his preparation. He even wrote a book about his methods.

The Mamba Mentality

You can’t talk about the psychology of winning without mentioning the late, great Kobe Bryant. 

It started when he was young. Think playing to 21 is tiring? While in high school, he routinely challenged any and everybody to one-on-one games to 100

There are dozens of stories that highlight his unshakeable work ethic. He achieved every accolade, including an Oscar for a short film that he wrote. It hurts to imagine what else he would’ve accomplished if not for his tragic, untimely death.

Playing for the Love of the Game

Is winning really everything? There is something to be said about enjoying the game. It is probably easier to excel at something you love.

Ronaldinho played with unmatched grace, skill, and even flavor. Not only could he get the best of any defender in the world, he always did it with that famous smile on his face. Despite his success, it almost seemed like he was playing for fun.

He is one of the most beloved soccer players of all time. He reminds us that winning a match is not as important as being humble and staying true to ourselves. 

Playing to Win, Striving for Excellence

Let’s face it. No one dreamed of winning participation awards when they were younger. Whatever the discipline, we want to compete at the highest levels and be the greatest. 

Of course, very few people will go pro or become all-stars. But if we learn to apply an integral work ethic, we might just go farther than we ever imagined was possible.

Does playing to win come naturally to you? Visit our blog to read more articles about sports and entertainment.

2 thoughts on “Playing to Win vs Playing for Fun: The Better Approach to Sports

  1. Yes, winning is everything. Every day, kids would argue about whether the Seminoles, Gators, or Hurricanes were better. Every day in the state of Florida, there was mention about who won the last football game between Seminoles, Gators and Hurricanes.
    NHL hockey repeatedly provides an air of excitement in Tampa. The excitement from the Lightning advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals is all that you need to fall back on, to make life happy. Nobody dreamed of being unable to attend Stanley Cup Finals games, if they were played in Tampa. I myself just moved 100 miles. I myself wouldn’t be able to get a ticket to Stanley Cup Finals games, since all of my money went toward moving expenses. But life is very sad for everyone who could afford a ticket to Lightning’s Stanley Cup Finals games. Well now that you think about it, winning isn’t really everything. I mean, the Lightning’s victories will always provide an air of excitement, whether or not you can attend them. But what’s the point of caring about whether anyone wins baseball games and basketball games, if you cannot attend them?

  2. Training prepares one for what is known in martial arts as “the arrow that is not aimed” or more commonly known as “being in the zone”. When it is achievied, one will be successful.

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