Do You Work Hard, or Do You COMPETE?

By Changing the Game Project
Source :

“But coach, I am working hard out there,” many of us have heard often as a coach.


“Yes Dad/Mom, I am trying my best” sounds familiar to many a parent.


We all want our athletes to work hard and apply themselves in training and games. But is something more needed to truly excel? Is working hard enough to reach for an athlete to reach his/her potential? I don’t believe it is, as one ingredient, when added to hard work, takes an athlete to the next level.


Do they COMPETE?


According to Duke Women’s Basketball coach Kara Lawson, a coach can set up a challenging practice for her team or individuals, through workload, organization and activities. At the end of that session, an athlete may very well have worked incredibly hard to accomplish the tasks set out by the coach. BUT, in each of those activities, the coach puts a couple of players on the line to run against each other, or adds defenders to the games, there is one level above working hard, and that is the willingness to compete. The coach controls the workload designed to make one work hard, but only the athlete decides if he or she is willing to compete. And if you don’t compete, you do not improve as quickly as those who do.


We all love our athletes who compete. Even when they are skilled physically or technically, they try to win every activity, every small sided game, oftentimes even the team ping pong tournament during their down time. Every sprint is a race to be won. Every duel is a challenge to be met. Those who do not simply rely on their ability and choose to compete often excel.


On the other hand, we often meet skilled athletes who rely on that skill to coast by. They have more to give but choose not to, meeting the work load, “working hard” by traditional definition, but choosing not to compete and truly push themselves. Sure, the metrics look good, but have they won the day? Have they squeezed the most juice out of the session?


Competitors are willing to suffer. They are willing to give more, fail, and go again. They go beyond working hard but allowing others to push them to new limits, and pushing their teammates to the same.


As Lawson says, she cannot force her kids to compete. It is a choice they make. And you are not supposed to be perfect every day. You cannot have two bad days in a row if you want to be a Duke basketball player. This is great advice for all of us to give to our kids.


Don’t allow simply being a hard worker to become a habit. Be a competitor. Make competing a habit. Create an environment where competing is the standard that everyone aspires to, and make it uncomfortable to not compete. Yes, we want everyone to work hard, but we want more. We demand more.