Stuck In the Comparison Trap? 3 Things Your Athlete Needs To Hear

You’ve seen the look, and you’ve heard the comments.

Sometimes it’s the look of frustration when your athlete’s teammate gets the goal and all the attention—once again. Or you may hear her tell her sister that she will never be as good as “so-and-so.”

It breaks your heart a little. You know that your daughter is hard on herself, and seems to be preoccupied with everyone else’s success—especially as she struggles to improve.

OR, perhaps the trap of comparing is even more PERSONAL. You find yourself stewing over another parent’s joy when her athlete is awarded MVP. You can’t help but compare your child’s achievements to that of all her teammates.

And if your friend’s athlete does better than yours—well you might as well just pout.

As silly as it might seem when we verbalize it that way, getting stuck in a comparison trap is real, painful, and doesn’t put you—or your athlete—on a successful path.

Here are 3 things that you BOTH need to hear if you find yourselves measuring every effort against all of those around you.

1) Comparing Will Always Result In Loss

It’s human nature to compare. And in a competitive team setting, it’s even more likely.

So, although it may be impossible to keep your athlete from making comparisons in her mind, it IS possible to work on what she does with those thoughts.

She needs to hear that comparing will always result in a feeling of loss.

Talk to her about how:

  • Comparing does not serve any purpose
  • It usually leaves you discontented
  • There will always seem to be someone that is better

When you get stuck in comparing yourself to others, you end up with a defeatist mindset. Any progress you make will never really be good enough.

However, there IS a type of comparison that is helpful and healthy.

Encourage your child—and yourself—to look at where you were in the past, how far you’ve come, and where you hope to be in the future.

That’s right, compare yourself to yourself.

Allow THOSE thoughts to become a dominant part of your mindset by making it a goal to be just a little better at the end of the day than you were at the beginning.

2) There ARE Advantages In Every Disadvantage

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book—David and Goliath—on the concept that what we often perceive as a disadvantage actually gives us an advantage.

He looks at the Biblical story of David and Goliath and points out that David’s small size and lack of armor—which most would view as a detriment—was in fact what may have allowed David to defeat Goliath.

We can regularly see this idea play out on the field with athletes that lack size. Many of them make up for it in their speed and maneuverability.

It’s important for you to talk with your athlete about his perspective on any “disadvantages” he might be focused on—positivity is a critical element to success.

Incidentally, the flip side is also true. Many times his “advantages” can thwart his efforts, and become a disadvantage. This is especially true when it gives him a false sense that he is invincible.

3) Focus On Improving a Strength

Every athlete has strengths AND weaknesses. No matter how “perfect” another athlete may appear, everyone has room for improvement.

Remind your athlete that often we are seeing others in snippets. This is especially true with social media. We only view the great parts of another person’s life.

Unfortunately, our imagination fills in all the gaps—and it lacks accuracy.

Take some time with your child to identify the areas where HE is strong. Encourage him to stay focused on his strengths. It is here that he can make the most considerable improvements.

Weaknesses can be brought up to an acceptable level but should not be his focus.

He can thrive the most in the spaces where he already has gifts.

You Don’t Have To Stay Trapped In Comparison

Breaking the patterns of comparing is no different than any other challenge—it takes time.

And it is something that most of us need to work on.

Remind your athlete of these truths:

  • Comparing always results in a feeling of loss
  • Every disadvantage has advantages to be found and used
  • Focus on improving your strengths and bringing your weaknesses to acceptable levels

Which one of these did YOU need to hear today? Share in the comments or send us a tweet (@DavidBenzel) —we love to hear from you.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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