Competing is a topic that is widely discussed today by coaches at every level. I hear it all the time that kids today do not know how to compete or shy away from competition. What has changed in our sports culture today and why? Competition is something that we must prepare our players for if they are going to survive in the real world. Yes, it is much more than trying to be crowned a National Champion at the travel ball or college level – it’s about meeting the challenge of striving for success and enjoying the process of pursuing that challenge. Our life will be full of challenges that will require us to compete whether it is pursuing a job opportunity or winning a game.
Competition is an interesting topic when it comes to today’s culture. I am not here to blame any particular aspect of the culture but having been around athletics my entire life, it is my observation that we used competition to learn how to play games. Black and white TV was not great entertainment, so we would always end up at the end of the block playing stick ball, wiffle ball, pickle, 4-square, workup – you name it we played for nothing more than bragging rights and the love of the game. We also had mandatory Physical Education in elementary and high school in which the foundation of those classes was learning sport and competing. During high school, if I was good enough, I may get a scholarship and I had to compete to be seen. There were no exposure camps or National tournaments each summer. Every team was a local team and we would have to compete at the State, Regional and National level to gain that experience. I never played a game that had a time limit either …………. there was always a winner and a loser! Fortunately, I understood winning and losing at an early age and I was never fearful of competing.
The challenge as coaches today is to get our players to embrace the opportunity to compete and not make the game life threatening. We must teach our players to understand the importance of competition and how it pertains to life lessons. Players must learn to play the game and handle adversity in a healthy way. There will always be a winner and loser and you must learn to deal with both. True competitors are always striving to be their best and control the controllable. The focus on being consistent with their attitude, effort, and focus each day. I have been blessed to be around some great competitors in the game and without a doubt, they all enjoy the challenge, have unbelievable emotional stability, and have a passion for competing. Whether it is a game of checkers or an Olympic final, they embrace and enjoy the opportunity to prepare and compete.
Competition is not for everyone as there will always be some pressure and stress that comes with it. Just look at this way – we are preparing our kids for the real world and through their athletic experience and learning to handle competition, they will be better prepared to achieve life long success!
Until next time!