Athletic Recruiting Recruiting for Parents

Should You Encourage Your Athlete To Succeed or To Excel? (Hint: It Can’t Be Both)

(Flickr - HayleyG.)

(Flickr – HayleyG.)

It can be hard to know exactly how to encourage your athlete. On one hand, it’s important they understand that you have their back, that you are proud of them, and that you think they are awesome.

On the other hand, when does too much praise, reassurance, and ego-boosting become–well, too much?

While it’s of the upmost importance that kids feel encouraged and supported, how can parents begin to groom them for optimal long-term achievement?

Youth sports guru John O’Sullivan says it starts with shaping your student-athlete’s mindset. Specifically, getting your son or daughter focused on growth rather than immediate wins.

Because as O’Sullivan reminds us, in sports and in life, getting better is a process.

Should you encourage your athlete to succeed or to excel?

A success-oriented mindset looks at the next hurdle: the game at the end of the week, the test on Wednesday, the report due to your boss by 5 p.m. While you still really want to do well on a success-based mindset, that drive is only related to the closest win in sight, getting that next thing off your back.

In other words, it’s short-term. While success is important, it’s an excellence-oriented mindset that can really set student-athletes up for long-term success.

So how can parents, coaches, and influencers start to instill some routine and best practice in the direction of an excellence oriented mindset? The following tips are based on many of O’Sullivan’s findings, and are geared towards long-term habits, rituals, and mindset for life in sports and beyond.

Focus on getting a little bit better every single day.

As I mentioned earlier, getting better – at anything – is a process. Better in school, better on the field, better at your job, better in relationships. While getting a little bit better, every single day, takes time, it builds something strong, that eventually becomes simply…you.

Failure is a part of it – and it’s okay to fail.

It is okay to fail. Say it again to yourself or to your student-athlete; It is okay to fail. It’s how we learn, it’s how we get grow, it’s in falling down that we have no choice but to get back up, and find a better way. O’Sullivan shares a common character trait of every single sports great: the best players in the world make the most mistakes, but what really sets them apart, is that they go back out, and aren’t afraid to make another mistake. Failure recovery says everything about who we are.

Value the successes of others.

People who value excellence recognize other people in their field doing great things. Did your teammate get in amazing shape over the summer? Congratulate him and find out how he did it.

Learn about – and from – their journey. Did your co-worker get a promotion you were hoping for? Give her a high-five and ask them to coffee to see if they may have any advice for you.

Admiring the success of others, and learning from it, will get you so much farther than any other feelings surrounding their accomplishments. Winning and losing with class is a major part of an excellence oriented mindset.

A mindset of excellence means not falling apart when it’s just not your day.

Some days are just going to suck.

The player you’re supposed to be marking scored the winning goal for her team. Your rival wins the tournament MVP. You brought your Spanish homework to Geometry class.

With a mindset of excellence, your son or daughter starts to become conditioned to handle these things calmly and maturely, and to learn from them. They don’t fall apart, throw a fit, or go into the tank. They have their moment and they move on. The limelight, the attention, the accolades, they will not always swing in your favor, and that’s okay. It’s not always your turn.


Our scouts can help your child excel on the path to playing in college, through the good times and the bad. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.