Why You Need To Become A More Selfish Player

Eli Straw
Why You Need To Become A More Selfish Player

Wait, isn’t it good to be a team player?

Ever since we’re young, the idea of being cooperative and part of a team has been ingrained in us. So why is it that I’m now saying you need to become a selfish player?

The reason is, in order for you to be the best teammate you can and contribute all you can to your team, you must learn to be more selfish.

No, not selfish in your actions but selfish with your thoughts and attention.

We’ve all known ball hogs and terrible teammates who only cared about their own stats. That’s not at all what I’m talking about here. No one wants to have that type of teammate and I don’t recommend anyone striving for such an attitude.

But when it comes to your thoughts and the focus you have during practices and games, you must learn to be a bit more selfish.

In other words, you need to learn how to play for yourself during competition.

What Happens When You Worry Too Much About Others?

The opposite of playing for yourself involves constantly worrying about what others are thinking, the attitudes of your coaches and teammates, and what everyone else should be doing.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in how your teammates are performing, especially when you know they’re not putting their best foot forward. And worrying about what your parents, coaches, or fans are thinking is natural.

But all of this is only going to reduce your level of performance, sucking much needed energy from you. When you worry too much about others instead of yourself, here are just a few of the consequences that can arise.

"The opposite of playing for yourself involves constantly worrying about what others are thinking, the attitudes of your coaches and teammates, and what everyone else should be doing."

You Grow Frustrated

What happens when your teammates are slacking off in practice, being negative during a game, or not giving their best effort during a crucial moment? What can you do?

One option is to try to uplift them through your words. Or, you could get on them by taking a more tough love approach. But do you honestly think either of these is going to be super effective?

Perhaps sometimes they will be, but the majority of the time, it’s not going to do much good.

What I can guarantee is that if you keep focusing on what your teammates are not doing well or what they are doing that you don’t think they should be doing, you’ll quickly grow frustrated.

This frustration breaks your focus, and can lead to you performing worse as a result.

You Lose Focus Of Your Responsibilities

During a game and even during practice, you have a given set of responsibilities. These will depend on what role you fill on the team. For you to get better at your position and perform your best come game time, you must give full attention to your responsibilities.

What happens when you start to focus too much on other people is that your focus is now split. You’re sharing your attention, which means you won’t be fully focused on your job.

Lack of focus means lack of energy. So, by worrying too much about everyone else, you are not giving as much energy to your own responsibilities.

You May Develop Fear & Anxiety

Fear and anxiety both live in the future. They occur when you begin to think about what may or may not happen. You fear a certain outcome, such as failing, and so in the moment you grow anxious over not wanting that to occur.

The reason this is a consequence of worrying too much about others is because of the reason you’re thinking about them in the first place. You may be worried about their opinion of you if you fail, or how great they’ll think of you if you succeed.

You could also be worried about their actions (most often this involves teammates) and how they will impact whether you win or lose.

Either way, your concerns lie in the future, welcoming fear and anxiety into your present.

"Fear and anxiety both live in the future. They occur when you begin to think about what may or may not happen."

It’s Easy To Adopt A Perfectionist Mindset

This is going to play off the fear and anxiety we just discussed. If you are worried about what others think of how you perform, or feel that your teammates actions or attitudes may contribute to you losing, what do you think will be a natural response for you to take?

In the moment, it’s easy to feel as though you must be perfect.

If you are afraid to fail, perfection will keep that from happening. If your teammates are not on today, then perfection from you may save the day.

However, perfectionism is not going to lead to peak performance. When you seek perfection, you begin to fear mistakes, leading to you performing timidly.

By worrying too much about others, it’s easy to think you must be perfect, only to worsen your own performance as a result.

How To Play For Yourself During Competition

It’s not that you shouldn’t worry or care about other people, that’s what makes you a kind person and a good teammate. But when it comes to performing your best, having your mind full of thoughts and concerns about others will only hold you back.

If your goal is to perform at your fullest potential, each and every day, you must learn how to play for yourself during competition.

Not only will this lead to higher levels of performance, but more enjoyment as well. When you begin to worry less about everyone else, you free yourself to focus on your play and the joy you feel for competing.

In order to do so, there are a few mindset shifts that need to take place.

"If your goal is to perform at your fullest potential, each and every day, you must learn how to play for yourself during competition."

Focus On What’s In Your Control

Look, I wish as much as you do that more was in my control. Who wouldn’t like to go into a game knowing you had complete control over your teammates, the officials, how your coach will act, or better yet, the outcome?

That would be amazing. But you know what it would also be? A bit boring.

The unknown is what leads to competition. And so for you to compete to the best of your ability, you must learn to focus on what’s in your control.

So, what is within your control anyway?

Well, for starters you need to look no further than yourself. The only part of a game or performance you have control over is yourself. Automatically you can see how this shift in your thinking will help you focus less on other people.

To get a good idea of what’s within your control, there are three factors that are always must keep in mind: your attitude, preparation, and your reactions.

Your Attitude

Everyday you get to choose your attitude. This is a powerful controllable, and one we should all be grateful is not in the hands of other people. Although, we do tend to hand this power over quite easily.

But even if you feel as though your coaches, teammates, or parents' attitudes are making you feel a certain way, just remember, you have the power to change your own attitude at any moment.


Another controllable is ensuring you’re as prepared as you can be at game time. This means preparing on both the mental and physical side, to be sure you’re bringing your A game.

You can have a little more control over your teammates' preparation by helping to push them in practice and training. However, when it comes to their approach and how much effort they give, that is ultimately out of your control.

So be sure, heading into competition, you are as prepared as possible.

Your Reactions

During a game, a mental skill that will have a huge impact on your success is learning how to control and mitigate your emotional reactions.

Let’s say your teammates make a mistake, how are you going to react? Better yet, what about when you make a mistake? In these moments, you must control how you react, in order to place yourself in a position for future success.

Another situation is when a bad call is made, or the other team is trash talking. All of these moments open the door for quick, emotional responses. But you must learn how to control your reactions, so your emotions do not get the better of you.

"During a game, a mental skill that will have a huge impact on your success is learning how to control and mitigate your emotional reactions."

Enjoy The Moment

You've put forth hours of training and preparation. So why not enjoy the moment?

One key aspect of playing for yourself during competition is truly learning how to enjoy the moment. You cannot only find joy and satisfaction when you win. That is a fleeting moment and will leave you heartbroken time and time again.

Enjoyment needs to come from the act of competing. Enjoy showing up each day to train. And enjoy that day where you get to go out there and perform; competing against an opponent, seeking to see whose skills will shine brighter that day.

Enjoying the moment cannot happen if you’re worried about other people or concerned with what may happen in the future. You need to be present, focused on the task at hand.

Practice being present and simply cherishing the moment. The more you can do this, the more enjoyment you’ll experience and the higher your performance levels will climb.

Learn To Let Go

Let it all go!

Let go of expectations, worries, fears, and outcomes. In order to have the previous two sections make any impact, this last point must be understood. The good news is, they all play into one another.

The more you focus on what’s in your control, the less you’ll be worried about outcomes and other people’s opinions. Therefore, you’ll be letting them go.

Also, in order to enjoy the moment, you must let all these worries and concerns go. There is no way for you to be fully focused in the moment and enjoying your performance without letting go.

It’s not easy to let go, but once you do, it’s quite freeing. You feel as though you are now able to just perform. No more worries, no more fears, just competing. At the very core, that’s why you're out there anyway, right?

To perform and compete in the sport you love!

So just make the switch in your mind that you are going to let everything else go. It won’t happen overnight, but the more you start to think about letting go, the easier letting go will become.

Final Thoughts

Playing for yourself during competition requires you to be a bit selfish. Selfish not in action, but selfish in thought.

You need to stop worrying so much and trying to control everything and everyone around you.

The best part about all this is, when you start to focus only on what you control, find enjoyment in performing, and let go of worries and expectations, your production will increase. You will become an even more valuable part of your team.

So, funny enough, you being more selfish in your play is actually the most considerate thing you can do for your team and their overall success.

Not to mention, when you start to play for yourself more, the satisfaction you have in performing is going to increase as well.

I encourage you to adopt these mindset shifts, and start to be a bit more selfish in your play.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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