Compete! How building a competitive fire can help long term growth.
Asking our young athlete's to compete, to really get after their opponent, or to have a killer instinct can often feel counter intuitive. We want our sons and daughters to be kind and respectful, and then we ask them to take the field/court/etc. with a killer instinct. I want my 12 year old son to be a thoughtful and caring young man, but when he steps on the wrestling mat I want him to attack his opponent aggressively.
I think it is relatively easy to understand the need for our athletes to have a certain level of competitiveness within them- If they don't they are going to lose. If my son takes the wrestling mat against an opponent that is bringing a high level of intensity to the mat, and my son is not, 9 times out of 10 my son is going to get his butt whooped.
But Travis, winning isn't the most important thing, right? Maybe my son gave his best effort (as I always preach) and he lost anyway. This is true, winning isn't the most important thing, and giving great effort is very important. However, competing to the best of their abilities is a part of giving their best effort. Let me explain-
Effort and competitive fire are not mutually exclusive, they work together. They work together to serve long term development. We should always look at long term development when we are considering what is best for our young athletes. I have written in the past about the importance of giving great effort, so I won't go into that any further here. What I will discuss here is how the will to compete, the desire to beat the opponent, or the desire to win are a part of giving great effort.
There are two main big picture points I think we need to consider when we are asking our young athletes to compete to the best of their abilities-
1. Sometimes our athletes will not compete because they are timid or scared. They fear failure and think that if they compete to the best of their abilities and they do not win, that they have failed. Instead of competing to the best of their abilities it is easier when they lose to justify it by saying "I wasn't really trying anyway." Have you ever heard that? I have. This is truly a fear of failure. We must push our young athletes to compete without a fear of failure. They must know that if they compete to win, but they lose, that they have done an amazing job and that they will grow stronger from the experience.
2. Competitiveness is a life skill not just an athletic skill. When our young athlete is grown and competing for scholarship, a job, an account, etc., it will certainly help them if they have developed a competitive fire.
So being competitive is great. We want our young athletes to develop a competitive fire. It is VERY important that we support them when they compete to the best of their abilities and lose. If they compete and lose, but we encourage their effort and competitiveness, they will continue to grow and develop.