A great book for coaches on all levels of any sport to read is "How to Develop Relentless Competitors" by Jeff Janssen. Jeff has did an outstanding job of organizing the thoughts in this book to help improve an area that some coaches might not think about in terms of development or maybe weren't sure how to go about it. It quite a bit easier when we want to improve ball handling and shooting or man offense and zone defense. There are so many resources to help us look for methods of improvement. But the best teams in any sport are full of athletes that have a great competitive nature. That competitive nature starts in the off-season and in practice and is a major reasons that successful teams come the closest to reaching their potential. You can develop competitive spirit. Why are competitive athletes important? You can read below from Jeff's book. But I would highly recommend it as a purchase. It also has a companion book full of drills and exercises.
Here are seven important reasons why Competitors are absolutely critical your success:
1. There is only one champion. There are other ways to “win” in athletics that are valuable and should not be neglected. But, at the same time, there is only one winner in each contest, and ultimately, only one champion each season. “Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.” -Bobby Unser
2. Competitiveness gives you a fighting chance no matter who you match up against. Your team’s intensity and “never-say-die” attitude can unnerve even the most talented individuals and teams. Archie Griffin reminds us, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the right in the dog.” Competitors take immense pride and confidence in their competitiveness.
“You can’t always be the strongest or most talented or most gifted person in the room, but you can always be the most competitive. There are bound to be days when you run into someone who is better than you. What can you do about it? You can compete, that’s what. You can put forth so much effort that you cut your opponent down to size and force him to play below his abilities. Competitiveness allows you to influence your opponent.” -Coach Pat Summitt
3. Competitors bring high standards to training. For fierce Competitors, everything is a competition; even practices, workouts, and conditioning. They bring an unmistakable intensity to everything they do and demand it from their teammates as well. If you keep score in a drill, the Competitors will go all out to make sure they win the drill—and make sure their teammates do the same. Competitors also understand that quality preparation is paramount to success. They want to feel as prepared as possible when facing opponents, especially those who might be more talented on paper. A Competitor knows that a team gains confidence when they feel they have out-prepared and outworked the competition. “Compete like you’re number one, train like you’re number two.” -Jeremy Bloom
4. Competitiveness keeps you fighting through the inevitable adversity. Competitors fight their way over, around, and through them. They bring a passion and persistence to the team that keeps them fighting and optimistic, when many others would have thrown in the towel. “I want to be the guy this team leans on in crucial situations. You always hear people saying, ‘I’d want to be in a foxhole with that guy,’ that’s what it’s all about.” -Brett Favre
5. Competitiveness earns you the ultimate respect. No matter who you play against or what the final score may be, you can’t help but respect someone who competes fully on every single play. While most coaches and athletes crave championships, ultimately respect is what everyone wants.
6. Competitors are often leaders. With respect comes influence, which is at the heart of effective leadership. Most Competitors have many of the makings of good leaders: passion, pride, perseverance, commitment, and confidence. USA Volleyball national team setter Lindsey Berg, herself a great leader and Competitor, says, “I don’t know a leader out there who is not competitive.” As part of our Leadership Academics at colleges across the nation, we conduct 360-degree leadership surveys where teammates and coaches rate their team captains and leaders. In almost every case, our best leaders’ highest rated characteristic is almost always competitiveness. Because Competitors want to win so badly, they invest themselves fully in the process of doing what it takes to be successful and gain the respect of their teammates and coaches along the way.
7. Competitiveness is a crucial life skill. While you spend countless hours teaching your athletes sports skills and strategies, ultimately one of the most important skills you want your athletes to learn from you is how to compete. “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done. I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” -Peter Drucker