Several years ago, when my daughter Carissa was about to enter her first gymnastics competition, I wrote her a letter expressing my hopes and goals for her athletic experience. Here’s a revised version:
My dearest Carissa,
I know you’ve worked hard to prepare yourself to compete, and I know how much you want to win. That’s a good goal. You will always get the best out of yourself when you strive for victory.
But winning is not the only goal or even the most important one. What’s most important is to have fun and learn. I want you to love the sport so much that you find pleasure in the effort itself and in the friendship of your teammates and other competitors.
I want you to know you can do well – no matter who takes home the medals – if you do your best. And you will be a winner if you keep getting better. I want you to pursue excellence with all your heart, not to please me or your mom or anyone else, but to experience the joy of accomplishment.
If you wobble, keep going. If you fall, get up and continue. No matter what happens, keep your head high. Don’t give up or give in. If things don’t go your way, don’t cry, whine, or make excuses.
Always conduct yourself in a way that brings honor to your team, your coaches, your family and, above all, yourself. I want you to be a model of good sportsmanship, treating the sport, its rules, your teammates, other competitors, and judges with respect.
But most of all, I want you to know how proud of you I am.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.