Competition. Whenever we bring up the word competition at our facility, we are met with comments like, “Oh my son needs to get better before he can compete”…or “We opted out of camp on Friday because my son was scared for the Friday Camp Comp…”
Why has competition become such a scary concept?
I fully admit I am the polar opposite of the Tiger Mom. I am the least pushy parent out there. Which would seem strange to some as I spend weekends racing through mud across numerous obstacles gunning for the finish line. And as a child, I competed as a figure skater. I will never say I was good, but back in my hay day, I finished 5th in the Nation. When I moved in with my husband for the first time, I stumbled upon my slew of boxes of trophies, plaques, and medals up in my parent’s old attic. Yes, I was involved in a competitive sport.
It’s not to say I always won. No way. Not everyone does. You have to work towards the top and earn the award.
So, yes I am competitive. But, I don’t fear the competition for me or my kids since I look at competition in a healthy way. Competition IS healthy. And I love to host competitions for my kids to partake.
TALKING TO OUR KIDS ABOUT WINNING AND LOSING
CHAT ABOUT IT
It’s important to discuss what to do when we lose OR win. To that parent that mentioned her son needed to get better before he competed, I reminded her that a competition would help him to learn where he could focus his training. Understanding where he falls in line with different competitors is a great tool for growth in the sport.
And I didn’t hesitate to remind her that losing is not failing. It’s not a dirty word. It’s a word that proves we are trying. Sometimes parents need to be reminded of that even more than the kids.
Through that trying, it’s imperative to vocalize the approval of their efforts. In our camps, Friday Camp Comp days come with a hefty dose of “BEAT THAT WALL” or “REACH! REACH!” The campers’ chants are loud and clear as they motivate their competition. Yup, their fellow competitors are not enemies! But it’s a lot better to fall down and walk away from failing an obstacle with a smile when your whole class was truly rooting for you to succeed.
YOU WON, TAKE THE PRIZE GRACEFULLY
Oh man, this is a big one. No one likes a bragger. Sure, the winner should smile and hug their loved ones. Always talk to your kids about it being OK to show excitement for winning! Training, practicing…effort was put in and should be valued wherever you place. But don’t forget to congratulate the other competitors or give out high 5’s to the other winners. All competitors work so hard leading up to the big day.
It’s also important to appreciate the reward. Not every competition gives awards. A soccer game is won with a tally mark on the scoreboard. I received plastic trophies that eventually fell apart a few months later at my skating meets. The fact of winning in itself is the prize. No one likes a sore loser, but we certainly don’t like sore winners. That’s just plain disrespectful.
I’ve learned so much in the past year of owning a sports facility that participates in competition. And man, has the opinion of competitive sports drastically changed from a few decades ago when I laced up my skates. I’ve noticed an incredible fear of competition entangled with a fear of failing. That’s why we offer competitions through our programs and work hard to coach our students on managing their feelings, supporting their teammates and growing from the experience. As well, we get a chance to show parents how we handle a fun playing field where winning and losing is a healthy addition to our program.