If you walked up to me and asked me if I was competitive I would probably say no without even thinking about it. After all, I don’t consider myself to be a competitive person. I’ve been one of those people that honestly believed it was more about the effort than the outcome.

At 27 years of age, I am beginning to realize that people who tell you “It’s not about who wins, but about how you played the game” are just lying to you. After all, if you aren’t striving to win then why bother playing at all?

Last week was the orientation for my new job and of the group of 85 of us, we were organized into 10 tables. Each table represented a team. At the beginning of the week, we were told that there would be a points competition. At the end of each day there would be a 30 minute wrap up session where we would be quizzed on the presentations for the day and awarded points based on correct answers. Pretty cool right?

When you look at the mechanics, the organizer just incentivized the whole week of training. Pay attention, get the answers right, and you get points. What are we playing for? No clue. It was SECRET!

It didn’t take long for the rivalry to heat up with the competitive personalities at my table rearing their heads. Mine included. I took notes better than any class I’d attended in college. Just for the chance to win. It didn’t matter what we were playing for, we were going to win.

In the end, the prize was small and nominal and yes we did win. We felt good too. We felt accomplished. It was as if someone walked up and told us “Your table payed attention better than any other table in the room.”

We were all beaming with pride. It wasn’t until just then, at 27 years of age, did I realize that winning IS everything. You have to believe this or you won’t give it your all.

So why do we tell our kids that being a good sport is the most important thing and that winning is secondary? I guess it is to foster good social skills above domination.

This is something I am struggling with as I coach and Under 4 YMCA soccer team. Each and every week I have to hide my game face and encourage a group of kids to foster their love for the game. This is easy, but it isn’t easy to suppress the competitive spirit. After all, I pretend like it doesn’t matter, but I want to win and I want to win big.

When we are falling behind, I know it shows in my behavior.

So here I am. Telling you that yes it is important to be a good sport, but by golly you better be out there playing to win.