Development vs Winning - Which mindset will lead you to become your best?
The mindset you bring forth in life will decide how successful and fulfilled you become. This is the text of a speech I gave, called Development vs Winning, when I won a junior development award for my work as a tennis coach.
When I was told I got this award my first thought was - crap - I’m going to have to give a speech. But this thought quickly changed when I realized why I was chosen for this. Many of my students wanted me to get this award and they put in the work to get it done, and that’s why I’m here right now.
In our program we spend time talking about how important it is for players to care for each other. And I’ve seen them learn how much more is accomplished at each practice when they do. But I never asked them to care about me as their coach, and now it has hit me like a ton of bricks to realize how much they do. And so my dread of public speaking was replaced with thoughts of how lucky I am.
There’s another reason I am humbled to receive this award. I care about language, and the word develop is one of my favorites. Develop is a synonym for improve. Who here has improved at something recently? … Think about what you improved at. Didn’t it feel good? Isn’t that what this whole experience of life is really all about? We all want to improve as parents, spouses, athletes, students, managers, employees, or tennis players. Developing is what we spend all of our time doing, and to win a junior development award has been very exciting for me.
My goal of helping kids develop also makes me acutely aware of barriers that commonly exist towards development. In all sports - but I think especially in tennis given it’s individual nature - there is one great barrier that exists: winning and losing.
Simply put, we place way too much importance on winning. And by we I mean me, you, coaches, parents, teachers, and society in general. Most competitive junior tennis players are not driven by a process of development. Society has taught them that if they are winning then they are are successful, and if they are losing, they are a failure.
There’s a better way. We can make development what we recognize most in ourselves and those around us. When your kid finishes a match, praise their effort, or their attitude, or their shot selection, anything they did well that was fully within their control. Act like you don’t even know who won the match.
I’m not trying to tell you that winning isn’t awesome. I love winning, and I love working with students who do too. But I’ve also thought deeply about it’s true value, and in doing so it’s become apparent that the great and terrible feelings are fleeting. Winning a big match or title feels so great in that moment, and sometimes for days. But eventually the win wears off and life goes back to normal. The same goes for losing. The devastating feeling fades and you always go back to normal days.
Developing, or improving, on the other hand, is not fleeting at all. Anyone who takes on a process of improvement to prepare for an event, whether they end up winning or not, will come out of that event a different, new, and better person, or player. It happens all the time that a player works hard, only to be devastated with a poor result. A few days later when the bad feeling wears off, they’re still a better player because of the work put in. Development does not wear off. Unless, of course, you stop trying to develop further. Unfortunately in our tennis world this happens all the time because young players are not learning how to value development over winning.
Here in this room, we can start now with learning to value development over winning, and teach it to our kids, students, peers, everyone. Start by looking deeply at the true value in your life associated with winning and losing. Then, make a plan based around development or improvement rather than the end result you seek. Execute your plan, and then sit back and take in the true and sustained enjoyment that comes with making yourself a better person.