Most athletes are in it to win it. They desire victory. They want to be a champion. And if they don't get the gold, they feel hopelessly defeated. So they try again. And again. Until they get that gold medal or world title. The problem with this is that even after they get it, they still are not satisfied. It's never enough. They want more. They want to set a record for the most title defenses. Then they want to be the oldest man to ever accomplish it. Then they. Then they. It never ends until they are old and injured. It's sad.
But why does this happen. Athletes have an identity crisis. From a young age all they hear is to win. Coaches, teachers, parents, and friends are all telling them to win. When they win, people like them more and they feel good about themselves. So they go out and seek more victories. It becomes a life of chasing victories. The athlete feels good when they are winning, but when they are not, they feel like a loser. When they retire, they lose their identity and don't know who they are nor what to do with themselves. Many try to come back out of retirement just to receive some love or recognition for something.
So that's one kind of athlete. Another kind of athlete is the one who doesn't care about winning as much. They want to be pretty good but don't have to be the champion. My brother set a goal to be #2 in the state in wrestling and that's what he got, number two. He was happy with it. He could have won state because he beat the number one guy in the area meet, but his goal was number two. Forrest Griffin, UFC fighter doesn't care about being the best. He is content with being the co-main event. He wants to make a good living, he's happy with what he is doing, and he doesn't need to be number one. I wonder if this is because he already one the world title!?
Then there are the athletes who play for the love of the game. Freestyle wrestlers are a great example of this. They truly love wrestling. Obviously they aren't doing it for the money, because there isn't any money in the sport. They do it for the love of the game. These athletes often fade out over time though because they cannot support themselves financially. I met an olympic gold medalist pole vaulter who told me he would not continue to compete because there was no money in it.
The next group are those in it for the money. They do what they need to do to get the job done. And that's how they view it. As a job. What percentage of athletes comprise this group? I don't know, but it is a lot of them. Many youth growing up see the lifestyles of great athletes and they not so much pursue the sport for the game, but they want the lifestyle. These people will do what they need to do in order to have the lifestyle they desire. These are the players who get in fights and yell at the referees, because their financial well being is on the line.
I'm not here to tell you which groups are right or wrong, but I will tell you this. Athletes are very influential. Especially the great ones. They have a responsibility to set a good example to the younger generation. People, especially high school and college athletes look to the professionals for wisdom and guidance. The pros are modeling the lifestyle of a professional athlete. Pros need to consider what great influence they have and live a life that will positively impact the next generation.