Youth Training: From “What a Champion Looks Like” Series (Part 8 of 8)

The Desire to Win

Back in high school biology, we studied rodents. I only remember TWO things: all the girls thought they were “cute” and the unusual fact that their teeth never stop growing. In fact, my science teacher shared, they MUST continue to chew on things. If they don’t, their teeth grow too long and they could starve. So, in order to stay healthy (and alive!) they must continually gnaw on things such as nuts, bark, wood, etc. They spend hours and hours literally grinding their teeth each day in order to survive. Sounds a lot like the grind of athletics! Although it may not seem as serious to an athlete to continue to practice, put in the “daily grind” and learn new things, many of the best known athletic champions worked hard everyday.

Ray Lewis, the famous Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker, was known for his incredible off-season regiment, including hours long workouts on the beach. Kobe Bryant, the NBA star, would stay up and work from the wee morning hours  on his jumpers or chosen movement of the day. Serena Williams, who currently holds the most grand slam titles in women’s tennis,  worked her way back through surgeries, injuries and even giving birth to pursue a passion.

And these are just a few examples of elite professional athletes who had one thing in common: the desire to win. Different sports, different lives, backgrounds, obstacles, but they all held to that one thing that kept them moving forward. That desire to see victory.

Fueling the Flames

As you think about your own path in athletics, you will need to develop the ability to fuel your desire. The desire to be your best, the desire to work hard, and the desire to overcome obstacles to be victorious. To fuel that desire, athletes use different ways. Visuals like photos or posters put up to be seen daily help fan the flame. A certain song or playlist, a video of motivation serves its purpose to pump fuel into the engine of desire. Visualizing your end result, talking with someone about their dream, hearing encouraging words and motivation from a close friend or relative can bring back to life what feels like a hopeless journey.

So, ask yourself:

Why do you want to win?

What fuels your desire?

What is your go-to when you hit a low point?

Answering these questions will help keep the desire to win alive and well. It will give it fuel when it sputters, and it will rev it high when you really need it.

The Testing Point

In one of the most iconic moments in sports history, the “Miracle on Ice” tells the story of the power of the desire to win. It is set on Feb 22, 1980 and stars two Olympic hockey teams: The United States underdog team made up of amateurs and college students and the 4-time defending Gold Medal champions, the Soviet Union’s professional hockey team. No one really expected the Americans to perform well in the tournament, and they were seeded 7th. But the belief of the team, the dedication of the coach and the players, and their chemistry on the ice elevated their level of play. They not only competed squarely with the other teams, they rallied their skill, heart, and determination to beat the Russians in an epic 4-3 victory on ice. It is an amazing story of grit, magic, and the desire to win.

“I don’t think you can put it into words,” he said. “It was 20 guys pulling for each other, never quitting, 60 minutes of good hockey. I don’t think we kicked their butts. We just won.

“It’s a human emotion that is indescribable.” – Mike Eruzione, from an interview after the win, Team Captain of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team, The Washington Post.


Every champion needs desire, and that desire will be tested. Keep working on fueling yours for victory.