When we hear the word character as it relates to sports it’s usually summed up as having good sportsmanship. Typically this looks like shaking hands with your opponents after a win or lose, or maybe helping an opposing player up after they’ve been intentionally, or unintentionally knocked down. This is what I feel most young athletes think of when character is mentioned in sports, a gross simplification of an intangible aspect that makes sports so special. Character in sports is not simply showing good sportsmanship, but what you do in all aspects of your game. From how you prepare, the manner in which you compete, and how you relate to your teammates and opponents, true character is about playing for something bigger than yourself. Character transcends sports and is the essence of who you are as a person.
When we talk about character with young athletes a simple way to help them grasp its true meaning is to ask how they respond to different situations in their sport. What do you do after a loss? What do you do after a win? How do you deal with a coach who isn’t giving you the playing time you think you deserve? How do you handle being the best on the team? How do you handle criticism, or trash talk? These are important questions that can help young people find out who they really are as athletes. In terms of success, the answers can make or break them. No amount of talent can help an athlete who doesn’t know how to use losses as teachable moments to improve. An athlete who jumps from team to team to find the coach that’ll give them what they “deserve” will never know the power of adversity, and belief. But show me the young athlete who understands that being the best is temporary so the need for improvement is constant, and I’ll show you an athlete with tremendous upside. Of course, answers to these questions reveal just as much as who they are as human beings as athletes.
Today more than ever, we’re witnessing an environment where young people believe they can separate the two. That is, who they are as people and who they are as athletes. Many kids today believe that they should be out to get theirs, or that as long as they have a level of talent they can get by with poor attitudes, uninspired work ethic, or bad relationships. I tell my young athletes all the time that talent only gets you through the door, who you are keeps you there. Young athletes need to understand that how they do one thing, is how they do everything. Your talent might mask who you are for a time being, but the truth always comes to light.
This is why I love sports. It forces us to become our best selves if we are motivated and willing to do what it takes. Because what it takes to stay at the top of your game in sports is the same energy required in life. Character in sports is more than good sportsmanship, it’s about how you play your game and more importantly how you live your life. The decisions you’re making to ensure success now and in the future.-Boostman
Owner, Boost Training Systems in Corona, CA
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance