I am the mother of three children and the coach of countless others ranging in age from 4 to 18. As I reflect on the past 13 years I have spent as a mother and teaching tennis professionally, I have to ask myself if my expectations as a professional and parent have been realistic when it comes to the aspirations I have, and possibly we all have, for our young people in the world of competitive sports.

On any given weekend, we can see how competitive our society is by the actions and reactions of parents and coaches on the sidelines of sporting events.

Most of what you see and hear is positive. However, the professional sports and their emphasis on winning has affected youth competitions.

Inevitably, there is always a winner, which also means someone has lost.

Don’t misunderstand me: We should all strive to win, but it’s the process we choose to meet the end result, not the end result alone, that should be emphasized.

A study in 1990 that was funded by an athletic footwear association produced some surprising results. More than 10,000 students, ranging in age from 10 to 18, were surveyed regarding their feelings about sports. Forty-five percent of the 10-year-olds participated in sports. But, as they got older, the percentage of those participating in sports dropped, bottoming at 26 percent of the 18 years old partaking in athletics.

There is no question that as the young athlete grows in ability and the skill level becomes that of a more serious competitor, the intensity level needs to increase to challenge and propel them.

However, it is important to maintain the proper perspective and teach the importance of “enjoying the heat-of the battle,” the sheer joy of competing against a peer who is also striving to better himself through the challenge of that particular sport.

These challenges can only better prepare our young people for the many things life presents us. Athletic competitions can provide one of the best arenas for teaching integrity, discipline, dedication and social skills.

Most importantly, we must teach our children that their self-worth should never be measured by wins and losses. Sports should be teaching life skills that can be carried with and used throughout life.

Did you know that 50 percent of everyone who competes in anything today will win, and 50 percent will lose? Does that make 50 percent of all competitors losers? No.

A quote I require the players I coach to memorize is: “A winner is anyone who does their best under any and all circumstances.”

This is applicable to anything and anyone.

So, parents, coaches and young athletes, set your goals high, and reach for the stars. You will be better equipped for life’s lessons by keeping in perspective the reasons for competing.

The next time you leave the playing field, ask yourself how you feel about yourself, who you are and what you are becoming as a result of being involved in sports.

And remember, we can all be winners regardless of the outcome.

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