top of page
  • Writer's pictureDan Williams

A Case For Developing Character In Sport

A common belief in sports is that winning is the only thing that matters. "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing that matters," is a famous quote from Coach Vince Lombardi. Today, Juventus, the renowned football club in Italy, has chosen this as their motto.

However, Viktor Frankl, author of "Man's Search for Meaning," suggests that this is a fallacy. Instead, what we truly seek is meaning. Frankl says success and happiness cannot be pursued; they must ensue as an unintended side effect of our dedication to a cause greater than ourselves.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, suggests we should disregard setting goals and focus instead on building good habits. It's not our goals but the systems we follow that lead to success.

Psychologist Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar argues for what he has termed the "arrival fallacy," which is the belief that achieving a particular goal will lead to long-term happiness. Once we reach our destination, we need guidance on what's next.

Suppose winning is important as a cause greater than ourselves. And the systems we follow lead to winning. But when we win, it doesn't lead to long-term happiness. Can it be the only thing that matters? Does winning cure depression or anxiety? Does winning cure substance abuse, eating disorders, and stress? Or does the mindset of "winning is the only thing that matters" become the cause?

King Solomon said, as recorded later by King Hezekiah, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast of restraint." (Proverbs 29:18a). The word "revelation" is used in sports when someone blows the whistle on illegal, unsafe, or fraudulent behavior. Or when a player does something unexpected, they are deemed a "revelation."

Both are different from how King Solomon is using the word revelation. He reflects on wisdom, its origin, and why it's essential. Wisdom reveals that sport has always been about developing character and is the only thing that matters. To steal the phrase, "Character isn't important; it's the only thing that matters."

King Solomon continues with his thought, "But blessed is he who keeps the law." (NIV) Or, in some translations, "but blessed is the one who heads wisdom instructions." Some have called King Solomon the wisest man to have ever lived. He says that keeping a standard is the way to a blessed life.

Sports coaches understand standards—standards for competition, standards for officials, standards for coaching, and standards of performance. "Standards are not rules issued by the boss; they are a collective identity," said Duke and Olympic Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Standards must be understood, embraced, and owned by every team member, sporting event, and sport.

Developing character in sports is crucial because it can change lives. Studies have shown that character development doesn't occur naturally in sports. It requires outside guidance and facilitation by the coach or others involved. By acknowledging and implementing character development in sports, we can improve the lives of athletes and the sport itself.

It's time to set standards for developing character in sports and create a new collective identity for the sports experience. Character isn't everything; it's the only thing that matters.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page