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Four Characteristics of a Winner


How many of you guys enjoy the feeling you get after you win a football game? We all want to be winners, don’t we? It makes us feel good. Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, summed up the way most of us feel about the subject when he proclaimed: ‘Winning is not everything; it is the only thing.’"

What I want to do in the next few minutes is share with you a few things that I have learned about what it takes to be a winner.

Four Characteristics

1. A Winner Knows What it Means to Be a Winner

Let’s define the term "winner":

The most common definition is "the person or team with the best score (i.e. points, goals, runs, time, etc.)."

There is nothing wrong with keeping score; competition would be pretty meaningless without it. However, winning involves more than just beating your opponent on the scoreboard.

A better definition of a winner is "someone who gives 100 percent of their effort in preparation for and during competition."

An Example: Gabriella Anderson-Schiess

Let’s go back to the Women’s Marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It was a very hot day. Women had to run a course through the streets of Los Angeles. The finish line was inside Olympic Coliseum. Runners entered the stadium on one side and had to run a lap around the track before crossing the finish line. Spectators had witnessed numerous runners enter the stadium and cross the finish line before the Swiss runner, Gabriella Anderson-Schiess, came into view. Something was very wrong. The woman was staggering back and forth between lanes and dragging one of her legs as if partially paralyzed. She was obviously suffering from an acute case of exhaustion and heat stroke. Within moments of entering the stadium, a paramedic team spotted her, and rushed over to her to administer first aid. Then an amazing thing happened. Rather than allowing the paramedics to help her, she motioned. them to stay away from her. Despite her intense pain, she was determined to finish the race. After dragging her tortured body around the track, she crossed the finish line, and she collapsed in a heap. The crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Even though Gabriella did not come in first place that day, I would argue that she was very definitely a winner. I believe those who saw her would say the same. Why is she a winner? Because she pushed herself to the very limit of her abilities in spite of the obstacles, and she refused to give up.

Being a winner involves giving everything you’ve got regardless of the circumstances you may be facing (i.e. pain, winning, losing, etc.).

Notice that by this definition, a person can be a winner without necessarily beating the opponent, as long as he or she performs to the full potential throughout the game.

Notice, too, that by this definition you must be considered something less than a winner if you beat your opponent on the scoreboard but fail to give 100 percent of what you’ve got.

2. A Winner Must Set High Goals

An old adage says, "If you are aiming at nothing, you’ll hit it every time."

People who set goals may not always reach them, but they will almost always achieve more than those who set no goals at all.

Example: Glen Cunningham

Glen was the world record holder in the mile back in the 1920s and 1930s, running a 4:06-minute mile. But what few people know is that he was never supposed to walk, let alone run. When he was a child, he was severely burned in a household fi re. He lost all of the toes on his left foot as well as much of the muscle tissue in his legs. Doctors said he would probably never walk again. Refusing to give up, Cunningham decided that he would not only walk again, but that he would run. And now you know the rest of the story.

Glen overcame incredible obstacles and accomplished what he did because he set high goals and worked hard to achieve them. There’s no telling what we could do if we did the same.

3. A Winner is Disciplined

Setting high goals is a waste of time if you aren’t willing to work hard to achieve them.

Example: Emil Zatopek

He was one of the stars of the 1952 Summer Olympic Games, winning three gold medals. He held almost  every world record for distances over 5000 meters. And he trained more than six hours each day. When asked what the key to his success was, he replied, "I run until I hurt. That’s when I begin my training program ... I’ve learned that if I can just get beyond fatigue, there is a reserve of power that I never dreamed I had, and then I go on to run my best races."

Now you aren’t in a sport where you are required to run 10,000 meters, but the same principle still applies:

You must discipline yourself to work hard during practice and during the game.

4. A Winner Has Strong Motivation

If you are not highly motivated, you are not going to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach your full potential as an athlete.

Now, there are different sources of motivation.

What motivates you to push yourself?

Some examples could include:

  • The thrill of winning
  • It makes you feel good about yourself
  • To impress others, such as friends, parents, or a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • To gain recognition

Some types of motivation are stronger than others, depending on the person and the situation. Potentially one of the strongest sources of motivation is a spiritual one and comes from having a personal relationship with God – the One who gave you talents and abilities in the first place.

Many well-known athletes claim that their faith in God provides them with their strongest source of motivation to be the best they can be. These include:

  • David Robinson
  • Orel Hershiser
  • Reggie White
  • Michelle Akers (U.S. Women’s Soccer)
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersey



Let’s summarize the four characteristics of a winner:

1. A winner knows what it means to be a winner.

2. A winner must set high goals.

3. A winner is disciplined.

4. A winner has strong motivation.

Wrap Up

Tell the team you would like to get their feedback and find out what they thought about what you said. Ask that each person take a comment card and pencil, which you (or your assistant) will pass out to them. Ask them to complete the top portion of the card (name, address, etc.). Wait until most of them have completed that section before moving on.

Inform them that it would be very helpful if they would comment about what you said to them: Was it helpful? Why or why not?

When most have finished writing, briefly describe an article related to your sports topic that would like to offer them. Ask them to put an "x" in the upper right hand corner of their card if they want a copy of the article. Then tell them that you will make arrangements with each one who responds to get copies to them. Be sure to remind those who want an article to include their phone numbers on the card.

Ask them to fold their cards in half and pass them (and the pencils) to the front of the room or to the outside of their aisles so you can collect them.

Thank the coach for the opportunity to talk to his team.


In the next day or two, call the students who wanted the related article and arrange to meet with them at a McDonald’s or other location after school one day (preferably with two or more students at a time).

After spending some time getting to know them, ask them what they thought about the team meeting (specifically what you said about the spiritual motivation for competition), and then transition into an explanation of the gospel.

From Fireseed Productions

This material is available on the "ALL That" CD-ROM. 1.800-729-4351
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