Are You Playing to Win or Playing Not to Lose?

March 19, 2013 | Brian Lebo

All for One

You may think there is no difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. They sound similar, but think back to the last game you witnessed in which a team mounted a furious comeback to win. The winning team played more aggressively and took more risks to come from behind. Essentially, they played to win. The team that originally held the lead changed their focus and played cautiously, not to lose.

By the end of the game, the team playing to win caught up with and surpassed their opponents. What seemed unlikely earlier in the game became a reality: a come-from-behind victory. (See 4 Rules for Playing Your Best in Clutch Situations.)

There is a huge difference. You don't want to be on a team playing not to lose. So here are some tips for playing to win.

Maintain your competitive edge

Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant made careers by getting their opponents down and keeping them down. You can emulate them by playing with aggressiveness, confidence and energy from start to finish. That means practicing sport-specific skills, improving strength and conditioning, following proper nutrition and getting adequate rest. All are essential.

Take calculated risks

You can't stop driving to the hoop or throwing the football if that's what your game plan calls for. Stick to your game plan, but be flexible. You can do this by becoming a student of the game and taking note of your opponent's trends and tendencies. Use this information to your advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

Defend when appropriate, but don't stop attacking

Play smart, but always continue putting pressure on your opponent. Work hard on defense to deny your opponent's progress. On offense, resist the temptation to play it safe when you have a lead.

Don't make excuses

You're going to miss shots, and you may not convert every third down play. However, be personally accountable, and don't get caught up in the "blame game." Learn from your mistakes and make necessary adjustments. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and work to improve your strengths and cure your weaknesses.

Take advantage of opportunities

Don't stop exploiting opportunities in the interest of protecting your lead. Find the "holes" in your opponent's game and use them to your advantage. If it's there, go for it.

Play the game based on where you want to be, not where you are

If you've scored 50 first-half points, try to score another 50 in the second half. Your goal should be to win every inning or period.

Brian Lebo
- Brian Lebo is the owner and director of Athletic Performance Training Center, a strength and conditioning facility in North Royalton, Ohio. He specializes in helping...
Brian Lebo
- Brian Lebo is the owner and director of Athletic Performance Training Center, a strength and conditioning facility in North Royalton, Ohio. He specializes in helping...
Must See
Brandon Jennings: Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 5,580,073
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 548,240
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 8,081,467

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,016,699
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,631
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,354
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,717
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,362
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,576,773
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,004
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,111

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

What's Your Back-Up Plan When "Plan A" Fails On or Off the Field? By Jim Carpentier, CSCS Athletes must bring their "A" Game in all sorts of weather...

6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

How Mentally Tough Are You?

How Mentally Tough Are You?

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

4 Tips for Building Confidence

4 Tips for Building Confidence

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

The Athletic Brain: How to Learn to Anticipate

The Athletic Brain: How to Learn to Anticipate

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

A Coach Describes What Its Like to Cut Players

A Coach Describes What It

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

Q&A: How to Deal With a Tough Coach

Q&A: How to Deal With a Tough Coach

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

Using Sports Imagery as Pre-Performance Routine

Using Sports Imagery as Pre-Performance Routine

Tips to Be a Better Leader

Tips to Be a Better Leader

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

YardBarker