My partner and I recently traveled to France to watch her daughters, who are close in age, participate in an equestrian championship. Not only were the girls up against many other older riders, but they also were competing with one another. It was a completely nail-biting experience for me as a fan — I wanted them both to win. As I sat there sweating, I wondered: How do they handle the unique pressure of competing against a sibling?
Thankfully, Cloe and Lilli each won once, making it very easy to celebrate them both each time. The two of them were so incredibly supportive of each other while competing, it reminded me of Serena and Venus Williams when they play in a final together. I’m still so impressed with the level of genuine joy I witnessed when each of the girls was riding to “beat the clock,” rather than each other. It was a lesson I won’t forget.
In rooting for your sibling to do his or her best, you put your sportsmanship at an all-time high. So if you feel like you always need to win against your sibling, consider these guidelines for making sure you — and your family — have the best experience possible. After all, sports are supposed to be fun.
1. Compete with dignity. You should always wish for the best for your opponent. The greatest competitions are close in score and performance level. You want a good game, so do everything you can to ensure a safe and exciting competition for all parties. Don’t trash-talk or taunt your sibling or bring up tensions within the family while competing — it’s just not cool.
2. Win with gratitude. When you win, recognize that no one reaches the top alone. Thank everyone who helped you along the way — including your sibling, for having motivated you to do your best.
3. Lose with grace. When you lose, offer congratulations to your sister or brother with a hug and a smile, and know that you’ll get another chance sometime soon. Remember that there’s always something to learn from a loss. Saying, “OK, I’ll try that next time,” instead of a defensive, “I know,” is a good place to start.
4. Be generous with praise. You never want to be known as the one who couldn’t give a compliment. Be proud of your sibling, hold him up and make him shine — even if it means you don’t get to hit the winning shot.
5. Realize that good sportsmanship is a virtue that applies to all areas of life. The way you handle athletic competition with a sibling will color how you handle competition in your work and family dynamics, too. For example, if your sibling’s career is taking off or she’s receiving a lot of your family’s attention, try to be happy for her — don’t let envy or bitterness take control. Recognize that you can learn from her successes and ask if she has any advice for you. A win for her is a win for you, too.
Stacey Griffith is a senior master instructor at SoulCycle and the author of the book Two Turns From Zero. Stacey’s motivational coaching style combines a passion for dance, athleticism and mind-blowing music — all set to the beat of her voice. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.