FEATURE: Dad, who is my competition?
Competition and competitiveness can have a spectrum of potential meanings – from pitting oneself against another individual or a peer group to going all out in an effort to annihilate opposition in any field of human endeavour.
Or “competing” can be expressed more simply - in striving to get better at anything we do, in sport and in life.
While competitiveness can be an innate quality, it can be learned or adapted from upbringing, mentoring and life experience – even at an early age. In another of his excellent, thought-provoking articles, Mark Maguire reflects upon the nature - and the worth - of competitiveness.
DAD, WHO IS MY COMPETITION?
In an article I read some years ago on Economic Competition, a reader posted back how he hated competition and how the world would be a better place without competition. I thought about this for a while and couldn’t relate to this ideal.
At a baseball game recently I overheard a dad expressing to his son the importance of understanding that not only were the son’s fellow team mates his competition but when he goes overseas for baseball his competition increases by the thousands as many are fighting for a position in a team.
I heard another dad on a different occasion - he was acting as a coach for a youth representative team - wanting to absolutely annihilate the opposition. He wanted to send a clear message to them because he saw that baseball association as his biggest threat.
I asked my fourteen-year-old son a little while back why he is so driven to achieve something in baseball. Why does he want to keep getting better? Why isn’t he showing signs of fatigue and burn out? His answer floored me and made me revaluate how I look at competing in this world.
He simply said, “I am competing against myself. I am my own competition. This way I go out and always want to improve on what I did yesterday.”
I could stop this article right here, get a beverage of choice and spend hours, if not days, reflecting on such words: I compete against myself. Let’s look at some of the advantages of this attitude towards competition.
Not wanting others to fail.
When I view my competition as other people I want them to fail. It is a human tendency to inwardly take some delight in seeing a fellow athlete, whether a team mate or opposition, fail, because it makes us feel and look better. Sometimes it is hard to be ‘fired up’ when the light is shining on a teammate. They’re my competition and if they’re ‘winning’ then I’m losing, our subconscious mind deliberates.
You can tell if you fall into this trap with your child especially if your conversations after games or practice express the failings and errors of others. Most of the time we will claim it is just constructive criticism. But true constructive criticism will then think about how we can help that fellow athlete improve his or her game. Yet most of the time our criticism is a subtle way to pump up our own child’s tyres, so to say.
When I’m competing against myself I’m giving myself the chance of removing jealousy and envy from my mind; I’m giving myself the chance to celebrate other’s achievements and their great plays in the game. Notice I write, ‘give myself a chance’. It is a challenge to refocus yourself, or help athletes refocus themselves on competing against themselves. It’s not easy, especially if all your life you have viewed everyone else as the competition. The reality is that you and your child will be more focused on improvement, free in spirit to enjoy the game and celebrate the achievements of others more than ever before.
It doesn’t matter about good, bad or selfish teammates.
When our athletes are competing against themselves it doesn’t matter how good or bad or selfish their teammates are. Help develop them so their attitude is I want to improve my game and, I want to improve my skills, each time they train or play. This way it won't matter what the standard of their team is or opposition is.
Again, another tough challenge for the individual and opposite to what our nature wants to say. But the good thing is it helps both parents and player’s eyes from wandering all over the park trying to find failings and errors in someone else. Instead of wanting to dig a hole for yourself or your child when they make a blunder, or instantly looking to lay the blame why such an error occurred, or even make an excuse, the athlete is focused on relaxing and correcting themselves for next time.
Avoiding burn out.
The baseball player (any sportsperson in fact) can get frustrated and possibly live on the borderline of burn out if they focus on others being the competition. It’s a lot of unnecessary energy and stress to expend on things they can’t control. If your child’s baseball game is something they’re passionate about, and they want to give themselves every chance of attaining the highest level they’re capable of without the frustrations and regrets of burn out, then they need to focus first and foremost on always bettering themselves, against themselves.
You’re your own competition. I am my own competition. Your child is his or her own competition. They may not currently be as good as a fellow teammate or the age group they’re competing in. It doesn’t matter. What matters is if they have an attitude of focusing on self-improvement. They’ll enjoy their game a lot better, they’ll enjoy their team a lot more; and they’ll be aware of adjustments and improvements in themselves that constantly need attention.
Dad, who is my competition? Get your child to look into the mirror and there they’ll find their greatest competitor.
“I am competing against myself. I am my own competition. This way I go out and always want to improve on what I did yesterday.”