The Sidelines: Is there too much emphasis placed on winning in sports?

Throughout sports, competition has always been a given. From the games played with two teams facing off against each other to individuals competing against one another to gain the top positions, there is not ever a time when there is not a fight for first. However, in recent years, there have been many debates about whether or not there is too much emphasis placed on winning in sports. Winning has many impacts, both positive and negative, on the lives of athletes, but the main question is this: Can the positive impacts outweigh the negatives?

When looking at the winning aspect of the game in sports, there are many groups that are impacted by just this one emphasis: children, teens, college athletes, and professional athletes. Even though these are only four categories, there are millions, if not billions, impacted just by this one spotlight placed upon sports. One of those impacts includes the pressure placed upon these athletes. With many of these athletes, there are pressures to not only perform but to perform at their best no matter the circumstance. Some could lose their places or even worse for college and professional athletes their spots or jobs with that team. Due to the pressures applied to these athletes, many tend to become perfectionists or are afraid of failure which usually leads to anxiety. For instance, in a statistic, by the American College of Sports Medicine, it states, “Approximately 30% of women and 25% of men who are student-athletes report having anxiety, and only 10% of all college athletes with known mental health conditions seek care from a mental health professional.” However, these are only the individuals who reported their symptoms. There are still many more that have the fear or do not even realize what they are experiencing is not normal by medical means. 

In some cases though, these pressures can not only impact their mental health and the stress they are under but can lead to making wrong and/or stupid mistakes in order to win. In particular, it is no surprise to mention doping when it comes to sports headlines such as if the steroids era athletes in baseball should be allowed in the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Russian athletes being caught during the Olympic games in 2016 with illegal substances in their systems. But all doping cases have one thing in common: the striving of the athlete to win no matter the cost. Although these athletes and many others have been caught doing this exact thing, there is still that risk being taken in order to win due to the pressures that are being applied by themselves, coaches, parents, or even whole countries. 

On the other side, however, winning can also impact athletes negatively due to the fact that some can gain a wrong sense of knowledge of their own abilities. For instance, some parents can doctor or nurture their children into believing that they are all amazing when in reality they are playing against kids that are not at their level. The quote that comes to mind is: “Big fish in a small pond.” These athletes are at the top of their performance and can lose sight of striving for greatness or improvement because they believe that they are already at the top. Over time though, these athletes can lose sight of what they were trying to achieve and maybe later even realize that time that they could have spent working on improving to become the best athlete they could possibly be has passed and they now have to deal with the consequences of those actions that they have decided to make. 

However, when it comes to winning, there can be some positives that these athletes are able to take away. Some of those include allowing an athlete to build confidence, motivation, commitment, and even character growth. Nonetheless, the emphasis on winning in sports tends to overall leave a negative impact when it comes to the athletes. It not only can impact their views of themselves and their performances but can also lead to them making irrational decisions based on the need for that win. In all, we as people need to look past the point of winning and realize that losing at times can allow us to learn and grow to become better human beings altogether because people learn from their mistakes and not always from their wins.