When it comes to success in sports, what’s most important? Natural talent? Superior technical skills? The will to win? The best athletes excel in most, if not all of these areas, but what if you could only develop one to its fullest? Would you benefit most from great genetics? Or would having the will to win, also known as “heart,” most help you reach your full potential?
Who wants it more?
While skill acquisition is very important as it relates to chances for success, skills do not compensate for attitude. More specifically, you can have the best skill set on your team, yet still fold under pressure during competition if your head’s not on straight. It’s important to understand that having the skills to succeed is one thing, but applying those skills with focus and confidence in critical game situations is an entirely different challenge.
If you look closely at the greatest games and individual sport performances, almost always you will see one common characteristic standout: The winning individual/team simply wanted it more. It is often this single mindset that differentiates winners from losers, and great athletes from average. The will to win is an amazing thing, and while it doesn’t always make up for missing skills, it certainly closes the gap between perceived differences in talent.
Can coaches develop attitude and “heart?”
How malleable is the human personality? In other words, when it comes to sports is it possible to develop a passive kid into a much more physical athlete over time? While there is little debate around the importance of playing with heart, the bigger question is if this part of the human psyche is inborn (nature), or learned (nurture)? Many coaches have experienced frustration trying to “toughen up” kids, and questions remain around just how much impact a coach can have when tasked with this challenge.
Teaching athletic skills aren’t nearly as big of a problem, assuming the coach knows the skills he or she is trying to teach kids. The challenge, however, is helping young athletes apply the skills learned in practices to games — in some cases nerves and anxiety replace the skills and confidence seen in practice, leaving athletes rely on simply playing hard (adding even more significance to playing with heart).
Don’t underestimate the power of the will to win, as it is often this winning attitude that makes up for still developing athletic skills. When kids understand and embrace the idea that their mental toughness can make up differences in natural talent, they often experience a confidence boost – and play better as a result. How bad do you want it? The answer to that question has great bearing on future success, for better or for worse.