Sports & Fitness

Competitive Sports Can Teach Us About Life


Naomi Osaka Tennis Champ

The term ‘competitive sports’ may seem like an obvious contraction. Well, not really, not all sports are competitive. While sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skills in entertainment and education, competitive sports include the element of individuals or teams competing against one another for a reward or simply for an exhibition.

According to the World Sports Encyclopedia (2003), over 8,000 competitive sports are available. As one goes through each of these, a familiar pattern of life lessons begins to shape up. It seems competitive sports are designed to teach us a thing or two about life. What are these lessons we can learn from competitive sports?

Life lessons taught by competitive sports

The lessons taught by these sports can be learned when we’re winning or losing, especially the latter. From either position, we learn some skills never taught in educational settings.

We play sports to win. But when we’re losing, we may learn either one or all of the following lessons:

  1. We need help
  2. We can get behind sometimes
  3. We learn from defeats

We need help

When you’re losing, you get plenty of motivation to reassess your current options and realize your need for help. Without losing in competition, our complacency can be easily excused.

Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League final win is partially owed to important tactical changes and substitution by coach Rafael Benitez. He realized he could overrun the midfield by playing 5 midfielders instead of the initial 4 midfielders and replaced Steven Finnan with Dietmar Hamann. The resulting victory teaches us when the chips are down, we get down and get help to change what needs to be changed.

For example, little Jenny always gets a failing grade in Maths. A fine way to implement the lessons learned from competitive sports is to ask herself: “Where can I find resources to help me with my math homework?”

There’s no shame in getting help. Make that tactical change and substitution if necessary, and you can have a great comeback.

Competitive Sports Volleyball

We can get behind sometimes

Sometimes we do everything right, but victory may seem elusive or we appear to be on the back foot. Competitive sports teach us that with grit and determination, we can overcome any setback. In fact, as multiple Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt once quipped, “There are better starters than me, but I’m a great finisher.

Are others you started business with already making profit while you’re yet to break even?

You could choose to cry wolf and sleep in the cozy pillow of self-pity, or you can channel your inner competitive sportsman and reiterate the sentiments of Tennis legend Tiger Woods: “The greatest thing about tomorrow is I will be better than I am today.”

Competitive Sports Sprint Race Run

We learn from defeats

Little kids are told the oft-repeated “You’re all winners!” and maybe rightly so for their age. Growing kids who play competitive sports find out that this is not true earlier than others who don’t, and are more mature emotionally to handle defeat, which inevitably comes with life.

Kids who grow up without dealing with failure are in for a rude shock in life when they encounter failure at school, work or relationships.

Competitive sports let us know that while it doesn’t feel great to lose, we can look back on the defeat, learn from it and congratulate our victors.

As Serena Williams readily admits, “I don’t like to lose — at anything… Yet I’ve grown most not from victories, but setbacks. If winning is God’s reward, then losing is how he teaches us.”

Competitive sports teach us that it’s okay to lose and we should learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Serena Williams Tennis Champ

When winning, we learn a lot about teamwork and rewards for hard work. When losing at competitive sports, we can also learn as we’ve seen above, that failure doesn’t have to be the end to our story.


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