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How to Compete in Sports

When you compete in a sport, you play against another player or another team. Both sides play to win. Competing can make a sport more exciting. And it can make you a better player. But it also means somebody wins and somebody loses.

If you compete in sports, you have to be ready to:

  • try hard
  • win or lose
  • handle pressure
  • be a good sport
  • take care of yourself

Here are some tips to help you compete.

Try hard.

  • When you play or practice, give it your best. When you try hard, you get to see what you can do.
  • When you fail, don't give up. Just try again. You may need to try lots of times to get good at a new skill.

When you win.

  • Go ahead and feel good! You earned it! But don't brag or boast in a way that makes others feel bad.
  • Think about what you did that helped you win. Did you try hard? Use a new skill? Practice a lot? Help a teammate score? Keep up your good work.

When you lose.

  • Keep your cool. You might feel upset or frustrated. It's OK to feel the way you do. But try hard not to lose your temper. If you need help with this, ask a parent or coach.
  • Even when you lose, there are things you did well. Think of what they are. Think of what you need to work on too. Use the loss to help you improve.
  • Encourage yourself. Don't let the loss keep you down too long. There's always next time. It's another chance to play and try to win. Stay hopeful. Keep a winning attitude— even when you lose.

Check the pressure.

  • A little pressure can be a good thing. It's like a "get ready, get set" signal. Don't let a nervous feeling freak you out. Use it to help you step up.
  • Too much pressure can come from your coach, your parents, or your teammates. If others are being too hard on you, talk to them about it. Ask them to ease up. It's good if they expect a lot from you. But if they pressure too much, it's hard to do your best. Tell them what would make you feel more confident during practice and games.
  • Do you put too much pressure on yourself? Don't be too hard on yourself when you don't do well. It's OK to make mistakes. Each one is a chance to learn.
  • If there's too much pressure, let a parent or coach know. If you are too stressed to enjoy your sport, it's time to ask for help. Figure out what to do to ease pressure. Make a change if you need to.

Be a good sport.

  • Follow the rules. Play safely. Play fair. If there's a call you think is unfair, it's OK to say so. But you'll have to go by what the ref says.
  • Say thanks when people say you did great. Tell teammates they played well. Give players who lost a good word too. Say they played a good game. or that they'll do great next time. Think of what words help you feel OK when you lose.
  • Treat and talk to other players well. Players you compete against today might be on your team another time. You might fight hard against a player during a game. But when the game is over, treat each other with friendship, fairness, and respect.

Take good care of yourself.

  • Take care of your body. You'll need energy to play well. Eat foods that are good for you. Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed on time. Go to bed a little early the night before a big game.
  • Take care of your mind too. Learn ways to keep your nerves under control. Take a few slow deep breaths. March in place. Do some gentle warm-up stretches. Talk yourself up. Some teams have a group cheer or huddle before heading onto the field. Let any tension you feel melt into the excitement of the first play.

Win or lose — go have fun!

  • You'll win some and lose some. That's just how it is. Of course, everyone who competes wants to win. But someone has to lose. Give it your best and see what happens.
  • Each game and practice is a chance to get better. Learn from coaches and from other players. Enjoy the friendship and fun of being part of a team.
  • You don't always have to compete. When you feel like playing just for fun, you can shoot baskets, kick a soccer ball around, or have a catch. Swim, ride your bike, dance, or go for a run. Whether or not you compete, have some active play every day. Because it's fun — and really good for you!
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2018