Suppose you’re an Olympic athlete and you hear that the only person who has a chance to beat you is ill and may have to withdraw. Are you overjoyed at your good luck or disappointed that you will not be able to compete against the very best?
If you really love and understand sports, you ought to be disappointed. John Naber, winner of four gold medals in swimming, says that a true sportsman wants to compete against his best competitor on his best day. Yes, that makes winning more difficult and less likely, but it also makes the event more exciting and a victory more meaningful. Being declared the winner is not real victory; being the best is.
If you play tennis or any other sport, what’s more fun: to play against someone you easily dominate or against someone who forces you to be your best and makes every point an exciting challenge? You see, the point of sports is to have fun trying to win and loving the game enough that you can have fun whether you win or not.
Athletic competition is not a form of war. The people you compete against are also the people you play with. They are not your enemies. The word competition comes from the Latin root competere, which means to strive together, not against each other. Be thankful for quality competitors who push you to your limit. You’ll find sports more healthy and enjoyable when you respect and even like your opponents rather than hate them.
When you compete with someone as good or better than you, you may not always win, but you never lose.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
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