Values & Sports

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

The line between Values and Sports at first glance may not seem direct or possibly even correlated but that’s far from where reality lies. Values are present throughout the sports sphere and there are no goals that don’t have a larger, more meaningful value behind them. John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball head coach carried around a card in his pocket that his father gave him named 7 suggestions to follow that read:



- Be true to yourself.

- Help others.

- Make each day your masterpiece.

- Drink deeply from good books, especially the Good Book.

- Make friendship a fine art.

- Build a shelter for a rainy day.

- Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings each day.



If I were to translate these 7 points into one-word values I might choose: Authenticity, Generosity, Persistence, Self-development, Connection, Safety, Spirituality and Gratitude. This already can give us a basic idea of how values and sports are extremely interconnected. Throughout this article the meaning of values will be discussed, along with the more obvious connection between martial arts and values, and how that connection expands to all sports.


Russ Harris in The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living says this on values: “Values describe what you want to do, and how you want to do it – how you want to behave toward your friends, your family, your neighbors, your body, your environment, your work, etc.” Values are the basis for acting in a way that aligns with our moral standards and our goals for ourselves. Goals however do not necessarily need to be values. What does this mean? One may have a goal of losing 5 kilos (10 pounds) or winning an upcoming tournament. Neither of these examples are values. The values that lie behind these goals may be fitness: Looking after one’s physical and mental health. Skillfulness: To continually practice and improve my skills and apply myself fully when using them. Or even challenge: To keep challenging myself to grow, learn, improve, etc. These are all examples of values. The underlying word for the thing that the individual is truly striving for. Understanding these values gives us much better insight into what it is we truly want. With the statement: I want to win the upcoming tournament, one may ask: Why do you want to win? What is it that drives you to win? And these questions often times, especially in sports come with the answer of: I want to be the best or I need to win to make everyone proud of me. This is great but the unfortunate reality is that these types of events are stressful enough in and of themselves and by adding more pressure, the likelihood is rather that one fails rather than succeeds. By connecting with a value such as: I want to win this upcoming tournament to further challenge myself and show how my skills have grown. We see the sportsman or woman take a completely different approach to the whole situation. No longer does the tournament represent a mountain that they have to reach the top of to become successful, but rather a single, small point on the path to reaching some of their values in being skillful and to continue challenging themselves.


At the end of this article a list of 30 values have been added that I personally felt are most closely related to sports. Please read through those now, as they will help in understanding what a value is, and how they are represented. With every value one notices the main word, and a description that more closely brings a person to understand what that value means. These definitions are equally important as the main words since they fill in meaning that possibly the original word may not carry for us personally.


At this point one may ask: This article is about sports and values, but how does mental coaching play a role in this? When it comes to mental coaching, a coach most often towards the end of the first session with the client starts looking for the client to set a goal, or a few goals. These tend to be small steps towards a larger goal. If the goal again is to lose five kilos, the client may set a goal as try going to the gym once during the week. While this is good, the coach should always be trying to dig deeper with the client. Looking past the goal of losing five kilos, and rather towards what the value is behind that goal. Does the client feel they’re unhealthy? So, the value is self-care. Possibly they are ashamed of their bodies, so the value may be courage or confidence. It’s also possible that someone is very engaged and looking for self-betterment, so the value may be challenge. All of these values behind the goal are not only important, but necessary for the coach and the client to understand. This ensures that once the goal is reached the deeper meaning behind that goal is not lost. Also, it helps to lead the client in the right direction once that goal of lo