Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Important Life Lesson from Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. I wanted to key on one sports lesson that I think is especially timely today. As I've mentioned in several recent posts, sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book: The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

One of the baseball commandments from our book is:
9. Do not find too much fault in the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you.

The problem in blaming the umpire is in part that you might be making an excuse for losing or poor play. But perhaps more important than that, it can become a habit and a bad one at that. Some sports psychologists point out that athletes with higher skill levels generally look at internal explanations for sports outcomes (The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports: A Self-Help Guide, Larry M. Leith). Others may look at external explanations. When athletes look internally after a loss they can focus on things they can do to improve. When they focus on the external, they often blame other players or conditions and are thus not so likely to seek to improve their own performances. In other words, better athletes take wins and losses personally even in team sports. Better players make fewer excuses.

What a great life lesson is conveyed in this commandment. No matter what we are doing, whether learning a new skill, developing a new business, or seeking a better job, if we find ourselves pointing at external reasons for not succeeding in our efforts, we are doing nothing to improve the outcome through our own adjustments and efforts. In fact, we are probably just wasting our time. The person we can most change is the one who stares back at us in the mirror every day.

Kids, of course, need a lot of positive encouragement and they need to know they can succeed. But we don't help them when we teach them to make excuses--the way many of us adults do ourselves! For kids, success requires learning how to succeed. And kids learn how to succeed when they do things themselves, when they take the necessary steps for success--set goals, study, learn new skills, practice and work hard to achieve.

Yes, one important lesson from sports that everyone should learn at a very early age is that we are most likely to improve "our game" when we start with ourselves and look internally rather than seek someone else or some other conditions to explain our performance. People who succeed at sports and life focus on improving themselves.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Image at top of post is from the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.