Take a Stand Against Bullying – Become an Upstander

source: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/blog/take-stand-against-bullying-become-upstander/


Bullying Bystanders Become Upstanders

Many of us have been bystanders in difficult situations where we are uncertain of what action to take to help improve the outcome of a certain scenario. And while it is common to feel this way, there are steps you can take to create change.

Especially when it comes to bullying.

What is a bystander? Bystanders in bullying and cyberbullying situations are kids and teens who witness bullying and cyberbullying in action but do and say nothing to change or stop it.

If you stand by and watch, videotape or make the bullying incident go viral you are sending the message to the bully that what they are doing is acceptable. And it is NOT.

That also means you are a part of the problem and not the solution! Fear of retaliation or exclusion may be preventing you from taking steps to help an outsider, but there are small things you can do to support the victim and show the bully their behavior is not acceptable.

As an upstander you can support the bully victim by:

  • Not laughing
  • Not encouraging the bully in any way
  • Not participating
  • Not making a video and posting it online
  • Telling an adult

It can be scary to confront a bully, but it’s time to stand up and take action. Help the bully victim in any way you can – reaching out in friendship, inviting them to join you if they’re being isolated, or including them in your activities.

How to Prevent Bullying

Remember that there are strength in numbers! Every school and community has more kids who care than kids who bully. Becoming an upstander and actively speaking out against bullying takes courage, assertiveness, compassion and leadership.

To be an upstander, you must take action to:

  • Tell the bully to stop

  • Get others to stand up to the bully with you

  • Help the victim

  • Shift the focus and redirect the bully away from the victim

It takes courage to tell a friend who is bullying to stop, but you are ultimately doing them a huge favor by helping them stop hurtful behavior. Your friend, and others, may not realized they are bullying someone. By taking small steps like saying “that’s bullying”, “stop it now”, you can really open others eyes to the problem.

Be a leader in your social group and speak up – teaching others to recognize bullying and take steps to help STOMP Out Bullying!

Become a Teen Ambassador for STOMP Out Bullying

If you are an Upstander against bullying, have excellent grades, public speaking experience and are a leader in your school or community you could be a Teen Ambassador. Learn more about how to apply here.

End the Hate: 20 Ways to Stand Up and Help Stomp Out Bullying

Source: Stop out bullying – http://www.stompoutbullying.org/blog/?p=530

By Toni Birdsong on Oct 11, 2016


Bullying Prevention

No one deserves to be bullied. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and the perfect time to pause and educate your family on specific ways to help stop bullying online and off. Thanks to the Stomp Out Bullying movement, this month is packed with a variety of awareness events and tools to help parents, schools, and young people put an end to this devastating social epidemic.

According to the group, one in six students say they’ve either been the victim of some form of bullying or, witnessed others being bullied. And one in eight students has experienced bigotry and name calling. But what kind of behavior is considered harmless teasing and what dips into the realm of bullying? Let’s take a look:

Different Types of Bullying

Physical Bullying: This is the most obvious form of intimidation and can consist of kicking, hitting, biting, pinching, hair pulling, and making threats. A bully may threaten to punch you if you don’t give up your money, your lunch, etc.

Verbal Bullying: Words hurt. Verbal bullying often accompanies physical behavior. This can include name calling, spreading rumors, and persistent teasing.

Emotional Intimidation: You don’t have to be insulted or hit to be bullied. Emotional intimidation is closely related to both physical and verbal bullying. A bully may deliberately exclude you from a group activity such as a party or school outing.

Racist Bullying: Making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures, is all a part of the act of racial bullying.Bullying Prevention

Sexual Bullying: This type of bullying often gets minimized or overlooked but is a problem. Sexual bullying is unwanted physical contact or abusive comments.

Cyberbullying: Because of technology’s primary role in our culture, one of the most common kinds of bullying today is cyberbullying. This is when one or a group of kids or teens uses technology (emails, Web sites, social media, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting) to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass or target another person or group of people.

Hazing: Hazing is a ritualistic test and a task involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a gang, club, military organization or another group. This can include physical (sometimes violent) or mental (possibly degrading) practices.

Anti-Gay Bullying. Nine out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed and bullied last year. Over one-third of LGBT students are physically assaulted at school because their sexual orientation and gender identity are different than those of heterosexual students. Over half of all students report hearing homophobic remarks often at school. More than 30% reported missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.

According to a 2014 McAfee study, cyberbullying is on the rise with 87% of youth having witnessed cyberbullying due to appearance (72%) race or religion (26%) and sexuality (22%). Pretty startling is this sad stat: 52% of teens have engaged in offline physical fights because of something that ignited online.

20 ways kids can help stomp out bullying:

According to Stomp Out Bullying, kids can have an enormous impact on the bullying crisis. Whether they know the person being bullied or not, kids can stop standing by and STAND UP! To safely support a victim:
1.Don’t laugh
2.Don’t encourage the bully in any way
3.Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
4.Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
5.Reach out in friendship to a bullying victim
6.Help the victim in any way you can
7.Support the victim in private
8.If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
9.Include the victim in some of your activities
10.Tell an adult if you see bullying or are bullied
11.Encourage your school to participate in Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention
12.Start a peer mentoring group at school
13.Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
14.Teach friends about being tolerant
15.Ask your school to set up a private ballot box where kids who are being bullied can report it anonymously
16.Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
17.Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment, and pornography.
18.Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying Bullying Preventionawareness

19.Create bullying and cyberbullying prevention posters
20.Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: Someone’s sexual identity, someone’s family member, someone’s weight, someone’s choice of dress, someone’s skin color, someone’s accent, or someone’s disability

For more creative ideas on how to be part of the anti-bullying solution, go to stompoutbullying.org. If you are an educator, parent, or student, you are in a powerful position to make a significant impact on this serious social crisis.

Signs your child may be a victim of bullying:
1.Looks anxious or upset if he or she receives a new text or alert on their phone.
2.Frequently gets headaches, nausea, or a stress-related illness. He or she increasingly asks to stay home from school or come home early from school.
3.Trouble sleeping and an increase in nightmares.
4.Becomes withdrawn, moody, angry or unwilling to discuss topics dealing with school, friends, or other peers.
5.Deletes or deactivates favorite social networks like Instagram or Facebook.
6.Suddenly loses his or her steady group of friends and refuses to talk about the details or place blame.
7.Decline in grades or a loss of interest in favorite hobbies, sports, or school clubs and activities.
8.Uses negative, hopeless, or suicidal references and may describe feelings as being lonely.
9.May begin to act out feelings of helplessness and frustration by bullying siblings or younger children in family’s social circles.
10.Tends to “lose” things like lunch money, electronics, or other expensive things bullies tend to take.

What to do if someone is bullying you:

Tell someone. Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult. Many tweens and teens keep quiet when being bullied which often leads to more bullying and communicates to others that she is fair game for bullying. Encourage your child to come to you at the first sign of bullying or conflict online. Monitor his or her online circles and assess the tone of her online conversations.

Save all evidence. Print copies of messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages and take screen shots of posts or comments on social networks.

Report the abuse to the online platform, to school and/or police. Report the cyberbully to the social network in the Help section. If the perpetrator is another student, share evidence with the school counselor. Report the cyberbullying to the police or cyber crime unit in your area if the cyberbullying contains threats, intimidation or sexual exploitation.

The best defense against cyberbullying is a good offense, and that means doing whatever it takes to build and maintain open and honest communication with your child. While regularly conversing may not prevent cyberbullying, it does help you both effectively face challenges—together—as they arise.

WOC #19 Sam Walker, Best Selling Author of The Captain Class, The counterintuitive leadership qualities of the men and women who led the greatest teams of all time.

source: http://changingthegameproject.com/woc-19-sam-walker-best-selling-author-captain-class/

What do the Collingwood Magpies, the New Zealand All Blacks, Barcelona Football Club and the New York Yankees have in common? They’re all members of author Sam Walker’s list of the 16 greatest sports teams ever. It’s not the talent, the coach, or the strategy that made these teams great – it was the Captain. Syd Coventry, Richie McCaw, Yogi Bera, and Carles Puyol led these teams to eternal greatness, and what made them great captains is not what you think…

Sam Walker is The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor for enterprise, the unit that directs the paper’s in-depth page-one features and investigative reporting projects. A former reporter, sports columnist, and sports editor, Walker founded the Journal’s prizewinning daily sports coverage in 2009.

In addition to The Captain Class, he is the author of Fantasyland, a bestselling account of his attempt to win America’s top fantasy baseball expert competition (of which he is a two-time champion).

Subscribe to the Way of Champions Podcast on iTunes

Show Notes
9:00 How Sam came up with his list of the World’s Greatest Teams
14:45 The Captain with the unconventional skill set
22:00 Why the best player is not the best candidate for captain
24:05 Who is the most important player on Barcelona according to Sam
30:00 Many times we bypass the “water carriers” for great players and miss the boat
39:30 Which “club” had two teams that made the top 16 greatest of all time?
46:00 The goal is Sustained Excellence not Winning Championships
48:30 Sam’s advice to coaches- Look for the charismatic connector
51:45 Sam’s advice to athletes – It’s all behavior. Study leader behaviors
58:00 Finding Sam

Finding Ryan
Website – By Sam Walker
Twitter – @SamWalkers
His Book on Amazon – The Captain Class

Changing the Game Project: Looking for Answers? FREE Booklet With Links to Our Most Popular Articles for Parents, Coaches, Athletes and Youth Sports Organizations

source: http://changingthegameproject.com/looking-answers-comprehensive-booklet-popular-articles-parents-coaches-athletes-youth-sports-organizations/


Here at Changing the Game Project, every week we get a call or email that says “remember that article you wrote about…? We want to use it in our newsletter and we can’t find it. What was it called?” Well, after four years of publishing thousands of words a month, we have realized that we sometimes cannot even find the articles we are looking for. Therefore, we developed a comprehensive resource guide as a way for you (and to be honest, us!) to easily find the articles you need to save you time and energy and keep you doing what you do best – coaching, parenting, playing sports, or running your organization. Below you will find links to the top 5 articles in each category so you can get started, as well as share this page with the coaches, parents and youth sports organizations in your life. Also, you can grab the entire booklet of every article we have ever published here (it’s only 4 pages, just title links)


How to Use The Guide: The guide is organized into five sections: Parents, Coaches, Athletes, and Youth Sports Organizations/Schools/Clubs and Book Recommendations. Obviously, some of the articles pertain to multiple categories, so feel free to peruse each category for headlines that interest you. As new articles come out we will update to keep it as current as possible.

Our hope is you will use this guide as a means to share a better experience with your friends and colleagues and continue to help us spread the resources for Changing the Game Project. If you are a Coach, link to helpful articles in your emails to parents or athletes. Parents, share articles about specialization, the ride home, and why kids quit with your friends. Send your athlete an inspiring article. Clubs, you can share an article or two to prompt discussion prior to a board meeting or AGM.  You could create a series of articles sent, add it to your website, or create study tracks that are required as continuing education. The information is all here in a categorized and hyperlinked format. Feel free to get creative with how you use it, and let us know what you do and how it is working.

Finally, while most of these articles have been written by John O’Sullivan, we have received some outstanding guest contributions over the years, and we want to thank writers such as James Leath, Reed Maltbie, and others for sharing their work with us.


Good luck!

Top 5 Articles for Parents 

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports

How Adults Take the Joy out of Sports (And How We Can Fix It)

Why Kids Quit Sports

Is It Wise To Specialize

The Ride Home

Top 5 Articles for Coaches 

Are Great Coaches Becoming an Endangered Species?

The Adultification of Youth Sports

The Missing Ingredient in Talent Development

Our Biggest Mistake Talent Selection Instead of Talent Identification

Youth Sports Coaching: Not a Job but a Calling

Top 5 Articles for Athletes 

The One Quality Great Teammates Have in Common

More Important Than Talent

The Difference Between Winning and Losing

Dear Potential Recruit: Your Talent Only Gets You So Far

Life Lessons from my “Old School” Sports Dad

Top 5 Articles for Administrators/Organizations/Clubs/Governing Bodies 

Changing the Game in Youth Sports

Raising the Bar in Youth Sports

The Accountability Problem in Youth Sports

Is Your Child’s Youth Sports Experience Transactional or Transformational?

What is Your Club’s D.N.A?

Recommended Reading

Our 2016 Books of the Year

Our 2015 Books of the Year

Our 2014 Books of the Year

Our 2013 Books of the Year

Our All-Time Favorite Books

WOC #15 Julie Foudy, Two-Time World Cup Champion and ESPN Analyst, on Choosing to Matter

source: http://changingthegameproject.com/woc-15-julie-foudy-two-time-world-cup-champion-espn-analyst-choosing-matter/


ulie Foudy is a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist. She played for the United States women’s national soccer team from 1987–2004. Foudy finished her international career with 271 caps and served as the team’s captain from 2000–2004 as well as the co-captain from 1991–2000. In 1997, she was the first American and first woman to receive the FIFA Fair Play Award.


From 2000–2002, Foudy served as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2006, she co-founded the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, an organization focused on developing leadership skills in teenage girls. In 2007, she was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame with her teammate, Mia Hamm. She is currently an analyst, reporter and the primary color commentator for women’s soccer telecasts on ESPN.

Foudy is the author of Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU and appeared in the HBO documentary Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.


Subscribe to the Way of Champions Podcast on iTunes

Show Notes

6:15     What she has noticed about even the most confident woman

9:00     Leadership isn’t Positional it is Personal

14:45   When did Joy and Winning become mutually exclusive

20:00   Julie’s qualities of the best coaches

23:45   On Anson Dorrance – Loyalty is gained through love, not fear

31:15   Greatness doesn’t happen overnight – “don’t get stuck in your junk”

34:30   What Julie discovered about herself after writing her book

37:15   Julie’s final thoughts for parents, coaches, athletes


Finding Julie

Twitter – @JulieFoudy

Facebook – JulieFoudy

Website – www.juliefoudyleadership.com

Julie’s Book – Choose to Matter on Amazon

WOC #13 Nicole LaVoi, Co-Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport

source: http://changingthegameproject.com/woc-13-nicole-lavoi-co-director-of-the-tucker-center-for-research-on-girls-and-women-in-sport/


Author of Women in Sports Coaching, Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in the area of social and behavioral sciences in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota where she is also the Co-Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, and the co-founder of the Minnesota Youth Sport Research Consortium. She received MA (’96) and doctoral degrees (’02) in Kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology/sociology from the University of Minnesota. After completing her graduate work, Dr. LaVoi was a Research & Program Associate in the Mendelson Center for Sport & Character at the University of Notre Dame (2002-‘05) where she helped launch the Play Like a Champion character education through sport series, and was also an instructor in the Psychology Department. LaVoi was an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and the Head Women’s Tennis Coach at Wellesley College (1994-’98), and the Assistant Women’s Tennis Coach at Carleton College (1991-’93).

Subscribe to the Way of Champions Podcast on iTunes

Show Notes

5:00 When she became interested in issues for Women in Sport Leadership?
8:00 Why is there a decline in women in sport leadership?
15:00 What would it take to get more women coaching sports?
21:00 Why does Nicole think kids are quitting sport?
28:00 Nicole explains “background anger” and how it affects children
35:00 What is Kid Speak?
48:00 Winning and Character Development are not mutually exclusive

Get in Touch with Dr. LaVoi

On Twitter: @DrSportPsych @TuckerCenter
Her Website: The Tucker Center
Her book – Women In Sports Coaching

A Case for Nurture Over Nature

source: http://changingthegameproject.com/nurture-over-nature/


“Your daughter is so beautiful.” The kind woman said, smiling at my 18-year-old daughter.

“Thanks, she got her mother’s looks.” I said reflexively. Then I cringed.

That’s my “go to response”. Anytime I receive a compliment on my daughter’s looks, I immediately reply about her genetic connection to her mother.

She did get her mom’s looks. There is no doubt. My wife and my daughter could be sisters. Regardless of how they look, that response brings a cringe each time it escapes my lips.

It’s not because of their beauty, it’s because of what I am perpetuating. My wife is intelligent, hard working, compassionate, morally upright. My wife is my role model and hero. She holds me accountable for the man I wish to be in the lives of my children. She demands excellence from herself, and our family, and ensures we all have solid values in place to create that excellence. Yet, I perpetuate the social belief that looks matter more.

My wife is an amazing human being. My daughter is following in her footsteps. She is following her in more than the looks department, and that is why I cringe when I respond in that manner.

I shouldn’t celebrate the looks. I should celebrate the work ethic, the values, the moral compass. I should tell people that genetics don’t matter. It’s not the nature that matters, but the nurture.

My wife has been a positive, nurturing influence in the lives of my children, as have I, to create excellent human beings. Yet, all people want to see are my daughter’s looks and I reflexively celebrate that instead of point out the more important factors. The details that will help her succeed in life, overcome all obstacles, make the world a better place.

When people saw my sons in their soccer uniforms they asked,

“Are they soccer stars like their dad was?”

Each time, my wife jokingly apologized they inherited her genes and are not much into sports like I was. Who cares? I don’t want my sons to follow in my footsteps athletically (Don’t Turn Your Youth Athlete Into a Mini Me ). I want them to be great young men with solid values and a heart for service.

This has weighed on me for quite some time – how much we tend to celebrate the genetics of children. I don’t want my daughter to be good looking like my wife. I don’t want my sons to be good athletes like me.

I want them to be better people. I want them to learn great ideals from us. To take away the great qualities we modeled and taught them, to improve on the areas where we fell short but owned up to, and to be better people than we were. I think each generation can build on the next.

Why do we celebrate those genetic traits over which we have no actual control, when we could be focused on the environmental traits we can control? Why should we care only about nature, when nurture has so much more potential for growth?

There are a lot of “great athletes” out there who are total jerks. There are a lot of “good looking” people who make bad choices on and off the field. The news is rife with those stories. We should be more focused on better people, regardless of looks or sports acumen.

But this is what happens in sports. We look for the more athletic kids at young ages. We seek the fastest, the strongest, the most physically prepared. No one seems to care if we nurture the traits we can control as long as they are winning trophies for us. The better looking our kid is on the field, the better looking we are as parents.

We choose coaches who are athletic. We hang the future of our children, and the 5-day-a-week powerful influence of a mentor and role model on a former pro or collegiate athlete and don’t even check to see if the person coaching our child has strong values, is a positive role model, and can teach great life skills. So we sacrifice the most important developmental years in our child’s life for someone who will build on their genetic talent to add more trophies to the mantle.

Who cares if the coach will model great behaviors and teach life altering values as long as he was a great player and picks my athletic son to win more games, right?

Here’s the kicker: looks fade, and athletic ability is soon hindered by age and wear and tear. What happens to my “beautiful daughter” or my “athletic son” when nature runs its course? What happens when they need to use their brains, draw upon a solid foundation of work ethic, or stand by their values when it matters most in life? Some day they will need to get past the genetics and use what they’ve learned to survive and thrive. Unless all we’ve ever done is focus on the genetics. Then they are ill-equipped for the real world.

If I don’t begin focusing on what really matters, I fail as a parent to properly raise my children. I should be compelled to make them better people, not better athletes. Most importantly, I should demand it of anyone who coaches my children too. The people influencing my children should not care about nature unless they are willing to also provide the nurture.

I get these are just words, but words hold vast power. They shape people, they mold brains, develop habits, and pass along knowledge and wisdom. A response of “she got her mother’s looks” may sound mundane, but it tells my daughter looks matter more than the other factors and it begins to cultivate in us this myth of the power of genetics. We become what we speak of and I want my children to become excellent humans. I should speak of them in that way so they learn to become that way.

For all of us, we need to begin focusing on the controllables and the important life traits. I know hearing your kid is a great athlete makes you feel good, but it’s not about you feeling good. It’s about you putting your children in a position to succeed and demanding of your coaches that they teach more than athletics. In youth sports it must be more about nurture than nature.

If my son is not a great athlete, then what do I do? What should sports be about for him if he won’t fill the trophy case?

What if my son learned to be a good person, learned to persevere, to work hard, to follow rules, and to succeed in life all through the vehicle of sports? Is that a good enough result? I should be just as proud to hear “your son is a fine human being” or “your daughter as a great role model”.

We can begin to demand that the focus be on the nurture rather than the nature in youth sports if we choose to:

  • Seek out coaches who care more about values and life skills than wins and athleticism. Winning can be a nice byproduct of great culture, values, and good coaching.
  • Stop the bleed of great people who get forced out of coaching because they were not as athletic as the other people. I have known many great role models who quit coaching or were denied the opportunity because they didn’t play on college or professionally. I want to have my son play for a good person who is invested in him.I could care less how much she played the game. She is a coach now. Can she teach my son to succeed beyond the game itself or simply dribble circles around him?
  • Stand up to the people who exploit athleticism for profit and personal gain. If your coach values athleticism more than work ethic, your club cares more about how many wins they rack up or how many kids they’ve sent on to the next level than they do their core values, they may not be focused on building quality people. If you feel values are being compromised for glory and the wrong lessons are being taught, don’t just leave the club, stand up to them. Your voice matters and if others hear your voice, they’ll be inclined to speak up too. A thousand voices can change the game but that requires us all to use our voice.
  • Speak to our children as people who will change the world first, and maybe they just so happen to have their mom’s looks or athleticism. My daughter needed to hear more about how hard she worked and how great she was at problem-solving. My sons needed to know about what great values they had and how resilience mattered in the face of adversity. Good looks don’t garnish advanced degrees and athleticism doesn’t guarantee success in life. They need more nurture than nature to succeed.
  • Cease to make such a big difference between girls and boys (we care about how a girl looks and how a boy plays sports) and they notice the difference. This is another article all together, but stop using different language. Girls can be amazing athletes too, so why does everyone always talk about their beauty first? Words shape thoughts, thoughts give way to dreams, dreams drive action, and action defines people. My daughter should have a shot at defining herself as more than just a pretty face.
  • As a coach, look for kids who want to be grown as people first and athletes second. See them as people and not numbers on your roster or positions on your field. The saying goes “culture eats talent for breakfast”. Culture has nothing to do with genetics. It has everything to do with strong values, work ethic, shared mission.
  • As a coach, look for the intangibles in kids and try to find a role for them. Everyone has a role. Some of the greatest kids I ever coached were not the best athletes or the “best looking” players at tryouts. They were the ones who had that x-factor and I wanted to build on that to see how great a person they could become. Amazingly, those same kids helped make all the others great people too! They played the most important role on my teams.

Finally, talk and think about what really matters. When someone says to me “your daughter is so beautiful” I should tell them “thank you, but she is smart, hard working, and has a great heart too. I hope she is as amazing a person as her mother is”. Or when they ask “is your son an athlete like his father” I can respond “yes, but he is also a great student, has a tireless work ethic, and wants to change the world like his dad too.”

For a long time I wanted my daughter to be good looking or my sons to be athletic because that’s what we are taught to expect. Maybe that helped me believe I was extending the Maltbie legacy.

Now I realize the legacy should be less about what they inherit and more about what they learn. If I want my children to succeed, I need to pick nurture over nature when it comes to youth sports and life.

If we stop caring about genetics, start focusing on what we can teach, we can begin instilling what matters in our children. They will have strong values, work hard, overcome adversity, and possess real skills to help them succeed. They won’t be just another pretty face, they’ll be changing the world!

Genetics make no difference unless the person is given the tools to use them properly.

Lionel Messi and the Will to Compete

source: http://changingthegameproject.com

Lionel Messi lay battered on the turf. As he raised his head from the grass, he spit out a mouthful of blood and a tooth. He’d just taken an elbow to the face, one of many kicks, elbows, and bruises he would endure that day. Soon after another player was given a red card for a wild sliding challenge on him, but Messi would not be deterred. In the final moment of the biggest game of the year, the Clasico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the diminutive giant stood tall and scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory for Barcelona. The goal – his second of the game and 500th for his club – will go down in history, in one of the greatest games ever played in this historic rivalry, by one the greatest players the game has ever known.

People talk about Messi’s speed, skill, and understanding of the game. They talk about his balance and agility, his magical left foot, and his uncanny ability to show up at the right place at the right time. But the one thing people rarely talk about – the thing that matters the most – was on full display.

The will to compete.

Lionel Messi is a competitor. You can knock him down, foul him, step on him, and try to knock him off his game. But when it comes down to it, he gets back up, and let’s his game do the talking.

He reminds me of Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, as he scored 38 points and willed his team to victory even though he was so sick with the flu that he could barely stand at games’ end. He reminds me of Tiger Woods in the 2008 US Open. He reminds me of the Gordie Howe’s and Mark Messier’s of hockey, fierce competitors with the skill to win a game, and the competitiveness to inspire others to do the same.

Competing for Lionel Messi is not a sometime thing; it is an all-time thing. He has always been smaller than the other kids. He was born with a growth hormone disorder, and as a child was nicknamed “the flea.” Clubs would not sign him because he was too small. Even when FC Barcelona brought him to Spain at age 13, he was always undersized. He had to learn grit, and persistence, and guile. The more you kicked him, the angrier he got, and the better he played.

The will to compete does not simply show itself in games. As his former Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry said, it showed in practice too. He isn’t a sometimes competitor; he is an all-time competitor.

We have a trend in youth sports today to measure lots of things, from speed and agility to free-throw percentage and body fat. But how can we measure and encourage competitiveness? Isn’t that as, or even more, important?

One of the first things I look at when evaluating a team or player is “do they compete?” An athlete who competes is more likely to spend the time and effort on their own to improve because the desire for excellence burns so deeply. I want these types of kids.

I am NOT speaking about overlooking kids who are smaller or late bloomers. Being competitive and being physically dominant are not the same thing. The smaller, less developed kids can still compete, can still be driven to succeed, even when physically overmatched. One day they will be physically mature enough to make a bigger difference, but all along they are competitors.

I believe that competitive spirit is an innate thing, something that can be cultivated, but not necessarily instilled. It has to come from within the athlete, not from an external source. Coaches, parents, and teammates play a crucial role in creating the environment that encourages athletes to compete and be mentally resilient. It is not something we hand to a kid and say “here you go, here is your competitiveness.”

Some athletes have what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset, and we can help them. They look as their ability as fixed, unchangeable even with effort and application. They either got it or they don’t. Oftentimes these kids do not go all in and compete because if they fail while doing so, in their mind they are not good enough and never will be. We can change the mindset, and help their competitiveness to emerge (click here to read how).

Some people are NOT innately competitive, which is totally fine. They really don’t care whether they win or lose, and they are not willing to run through that proverbial wall to get a ball or chase down a puck. They may be fast, strong, and have great skill, but don’t compete. The world is full of uncommon people with great talent. You can see these players in practice when you play small sided games: they more often than not end up on the losing team when the games are tight. I am not saying that these kids should not be allowed to play sports; of course, they should. But I am not sure the high-performance track is the long term path for them.

Great competitors, on the other hand, even when they are playing with a less talented group, often find a way to win. They take pride in the struggle. If you track over the course of a season which kids win your small sided games in practice, more often than not, the same kids will keep coming up. They bring that intangible difference game after game, in practice and matches.

So how can parents, coaches, and teammates help unleash the competitive spirit of more athletes? Here are some thoughts:

Create a culture and environment where competing is valued. Adults can create a team standard where players are expected to show up early, stay late, and bring 100% effort and focus every single day. This goes for the home front and the practice field. Don’t focus on “win at all costs.” Focus on “compete at all times.”

Make competition part of every practice: Keep score, and have consequences for not competing hard. Some coaches actually reward the winners with fitness. It really depends on the age and level of your team, and I do not like to use fitness ever as a punishment. What I often do is ask kids what they want to play for that game. Let them come up with the prize or consequence.

Track results in practice: Anson Dorrance, coach of the 22x NCAA Champion North Carolina Women’s Soccer team, is famous for creating what he calls the “competitive cauldron.” He and his staff meticulously track every 1v1, small sided game, and fitness test. He teaches his players to first compete against their own numbers. They post results publically so there is no hiding. This works best for high school and college-age teams (not recommended for very young kids).

Create a culture of accountability: When athletes start holding each other accountable for the level of tenacity, competitiveness and focus in training, the magic happens. The coach is the ultimate adjudicator, but when teammates take the primary role, the pressure to get on the bus seems to solve most problems. As the New Zealand All Blacks say, the scariest meeting is not the one with the coaching staff. The scariest meeting is having to face their teammates and explain why they let them down.

No whining: Complaining to anyone who cannot solve your problem is whining. Who cares if the teams are unfair, or you are not in your favored position?  If you do not like your playing time or role, what are you doing to change it? If your teammate is whining, get yourself out of that conversation or tell him that this is a no whining zone. Whining has never led to a player being better prepared to score the big goal or make a key play.

Get 1% Better Every Day: Create an environment where every day an athlete starts anew with an opportunity to get just 1% better than yesterday, the aggregation of marginal gains. Every little improvement matters as they seek to compete to be their very best. 100 days of 1% gains equal an athlete who has now improved 100%. This takes patience, self-reflection, and fortitude. Excellence is a habit.

Catch them being good: If you want your athletes and teammates to compete, acknowledge players for competing above and beyond the standard. Praise competitiveness. Reward the value you want to see the most.

Instill fearlessness: if we want our athletes to compete hard and be creative, they cannot fear mistakes. 100% focus and effort is required, not perfection. We need to have the courage to fail in order to have the opportunity to improve.

Find Strong Opponents and “Seek Together:” The root for the word compete is the Latin word competere which means “to seek together.” If we truly desire to be the very best we can be, we should constantly be striving together with strong opponents who make us better. We should get excited to play difficult teams and see them as partners in our own development.

Parents, I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is perspective. Sometimes our job is not to make them feel good; it is to make them be good. When the developmental road gets rocky, take the long view.  Ask them “have you done every single thing you can control to earn more playing time? Are you the hardest worker in training? Are you getting up before school and doing more fitness? Are you staying after practice to do extra work? Are you competing?”

As Basketball performance coach Alan Stein says, “are the habits you have today on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow?”

Coaches, treat your athletes as people first and be honest with them. Give your team some ownership and empower them to create their own culture of accountability. Athletes who play a role in the values, goals and mission development tend to hold themselves and each other more accountable. Make sure competitiveness is one of them. When players ask how they can get more playing time, give them a list of things to do, and if they do them, reward them. Don’t let it be a guessing game.

Lionel Messi will go down in history as perhaps the greatest soccer player ever. He has the skill, he has the speed and he has the guile. But none of that would matter if he did not compete. He is a warrior. Even when he gets kicked. Even when the referee doesn’t call the foul. Even when he gets his tooth knocked out.

He competes.  Every. Single. Day.

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