When you dissect the characteristics that make up a great athlete, one of those traits is the ability to compete.  Sometimes they might be too competitive, but the athlete will do what it takes to put him/her in the best position possible to compete and compete well.

You see competitive in all types of athletes:

  • The youngest sibling.
  • The smaller athlete who has a chip on the shoulder.
  • The product of very competitive parents.

But, what can be done to develop this desire to compete in athletes.  As a parent, I don’t feel my wife and I are super competitive.  If we are we don’t show it that often.  We didn’t make every little game or activity we did a life/death situation.

Yet, we have two very competitive children.

They aren’t close in age so the sibling rivalry isn’t part of that.  So, if it wasn’t shown to them by us a whole lot then how did they get competitive?  How does any kid develop this competitiveness?

Having really studied this, I feel there are several different ways you can develop competitiveness in your athlete.  Here is what I’ve come up with:

  • I was reading an old post I wrote on developing a young athlete’s confidence. One of the traits that I discussed was having had some success in athletics.  Not just any type of success it had to be meaningful success.

    What does that mean?  In the age of “Everyone gets a trophy,” you have to have gotten a trophy in something that only one winner received that trophy.  Maybe a tournament winner, a league title, a state championship.

    If your athlete gets a taste of a true meaningful success, he/she will want to have that taste again and again.  Something that they truly earned and wasn’t handed to them.  That will develop a habit of “what do I need to get that taste again?”

  • As much as I bang on the travel sports, one thing I think that has developed as a result of this competition at a young age is the desire to compete. These young kids get put in tournaments where they get X amount of games.  If they want more, they have to win and advance.  If they don’t win, they go home without a trophy.

    Slowly over time, an athlete develops the desire to compete so that he/she can win to have a shot at that trophy.  This ability to compete will then crossover to other sports this athlete might play.

  • If the athlete’s family doesn’t foster the competitiveness and the athlete has too big of a gap between his/her sibling to develop that desire to compete, then the next best thing is friends.

    If your athlete has some good friends who are competitive, then it certainly will start to rub off on your athlete. They will start to compete in class, at recess, when they play games.  If you see this dynamic, this is probably your best bet to foster that desire to compete.

Any of these alone might be enough to tap into the athlete’s desire to compete.  But, if you combine all three, I can’t see how you don’t have a competitive athlete on your hand.

You get them to be competitive in sports, then it could transfer over to the classroom.  Now all of the sudden your athlete is trying to get the top GPA in the class.  That will be the real plus is how the desire to compete helps them in other aspects of life later on – college, finding a job, etc.

Tell me what you think in the comments’ box below.  Is there a glaring trait I’m missing that really helps an athlete be competitive?  Feel free to share.