Vince Lombardi, the fabled coach of the Green Bay Packers, was regarded as possibly the greatest coach in the NFL ever. He was once asked, “Is winning everything?” His response was, reportedly, “No, winning is the ONLY thing.” Stirring words indeed and they set the tone of the win at all costs emphasis so prevalent in sport.

I’d like to advance another perspective. At the upper echelons of sport where the rewards for athletes run into millions of dollars and clubs can be worth billions that attitude can be appreciated.

What about the millions who play sport at every level and will never even aspire to the lofty heights of a Lebron James or Floyd Maywether? Those who play for a multitude of reasons. Like to get fit, or make friends, to become more skilled for the thrill of it or simply to do an enjoyable activity. Surely these people should still aspire to be better and compete without the incessant pressure to win.

Squash, like any other sport, has a multitude of levels of competence and people strive to be the best they can. So they should. We should look, perhaps, at the purpose of a game, any game. Firstly there is a need to score and the highest score wins. In order to score you must be able to play, so playing is obviously a purpose. There are rules so playing by the rules is an important purpose.

Now, let’s talk about winning. We all love to win. It gives you a sense of achievement and worth and enhances your image. I suppose there is no more important sensation for anyone than to win. So we all go as hard as we can to win. The problem that develops is that winning becomes so important that people become stressed and misemotional. Often we hear people say, “he’s great outside the court, but in the game he seems like someone else and that’s not good.”

Let me offer a different view. Winning and losing are actually the OUTCOME of the contest. So, what causes someone to win? If we look at the prime purpose of a game we might gain some idea. The first and most basic purpose of a game is to PLAY. That being true it becomes obvious that the individual who plays the best will win. Therefore the main purpose should be to play well, to outplay the opponent. If you do that the odds are you will achieve the logical outcome and win.

So, to me, the main focus should be to play well. Have you ever played a match and lost, yet had a great time and learned something from the loss so that you will play better in the future? You will always, at some time, meet a better opponent, but if you focus on playing the best shots you can and learn from what your opponent does you give yourself the chance to be better at whatever you are doing, be it the sport you are playing or that greater game called life.

Focus on playing well and you will win, even if you lose the match.

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