I was not an athlete when I was a kid. I was not an athlete in high school. If you told me at high school graduation that I'd leave college with a degree in teaching Physical Education, I would have laughed. I liked PE as a kid, but I didn't like sports.
I struggled for years dealing with students who couldn't handle competition. They were obsessed with the score; and just had a general inability to play a game for the sake of playing and bettering themselves.
Then I came up with rule number one.
If you're sweating, you're winning.
Kids will come up and ask me the score. Do I know the score? Of course not. Do I care about the score? Never. What I do care about is how hard you're trying. Are you attempting the activity. Are you trying to get better? Are you helping your team? Are you active and involved? Do you know what to do? These are the skills I'm looking for.
As a player, you don't choose your team. You might be the best player on a team of inexperienced players. Such is life sometimes. All you can do is your own best. Scoring points tells you that you succeeded as an individual. Beyond that, my only expectations are: (1) Effort; and (2) Knowing what to do.
It's important as an individual to learn to compare yourself to your previous self instead of to other people. When you keep score, you're comparing yourself to others. When you're simply trying to better yourself, you're understanding that you can only control yourself. You can't control anybody else. At the same time, you'll stop believing lies that you're not as good as somebody else.
But isn't learning to lose important?
Absolutely. Failure is first ingredient in the recipe to success. I'm a Kansas City Royals fan and endured losing seasons for most of my life. Typically, by the All Star break the team was well outside of playoff contention and still had pretty much meaningless games to play. I used to wonder why the players don't just mail it in. They're there to improve themselves. They are there to earn a new, hopefully better, contract. They are there, working hard, to improve their situation. At that point, the final score doesn't matter. It's about personal improvement.
Using the baseball analogy, if you get out and quit, you aren't sweating and you aren't winning. Sweating is trying and persevering through success and failure. And sweating like that is winning in my book.