A Competitive Perspective
by Deborah Ann Davis, B.S., M.Ed., W.I.T.S.
When I was a little girl, my country town didn’t have girls’ sports, so I didn’t have any formal exposure to organized competition at a young age. I use the word organized to differentiate between athletic competition, and that which girls did to compete for boys’ attention. I certainly partook in the latter.
In high school, I cheered madly for the basketball captain I was crushing on. I was myopic in my focus on him (oh, right… there were other people on the court, too), but that focus provided me with an unusual view of competition- the view he held. He was a fabulous athlete who was known to congratulate his opponents on good shots and good moves. It drove his track coach crazy when he helped his opponents with their jumping technique (yeah, I followed him in track, too). He believed that every competition was a platform for learning, about himself and others, so I learned to believe that, too.
When our daughter (yeah, I married him twelve years later) began playing basketball, we decided to coach her AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team so she would learn about competition in its purest form… and here it is: In any competition, the only one you can ever truly compete against is yourself. Win or lose, you have to ask yourself, “Did I do better this time than I have ever done before?”
Who cares if you smoke a bush-league opponent? Where is the honor in that? We taught our players to work on their skills instead of crushing weaker opponents. Instead of racking up the points, they moved the ball around the court until every teammate scored. Rather than feeding the ball to the go-to scorers, they selected something to improve (blocking, passing, boxing out, rebounding, etc.). Honing their skills taught them to control the tempo of the game.
But what about when they lost? It was crushing to young girls unaccustomed to losing. The first thing we did in our (sometimes tearful) post-game huddle was to review their stats and emphasize their personal bests. We reminded them anyone who achieved a personal best had successfully competed, especially in the face of a stronger team. Grins replaced tears as they listened to how they improved, strengthening their resolve to do better the next game.
Was this philosophy effective? It sure was. By the time they finished Middle School, they had swept States two years in a row. In the ninth grade, nine of our players were starters for their High School Varsity teams.
The lesson here is that no matter how you train, or how much you prepare, you cannot control whether you win or lose because you cannot control who shows up to compete against you, whether in sports, in grades, or in job interviews. But no matter who shows up, you can control whether you do your best. You can learn and improve in the face of adversity until you achieve your goals.
And, as Petir tells Maid Rianne in Fairly Certain, you have control over who you bring to the game.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of the author and may not not necessarily reflect the opinions of Good Reads With Ronna reviewers.