The Value of Competition

Most reading the title of this post will probably first assume it is about competition against others. That’s natural, and it’s what I normally do when thinking about competition. But I got a different perspective this past weekend while attending my son’s track meet.

It was the first real track meet I had been to. His bi-weekly practices were at times more like organized chaos and there was never the kind of formality like a real meet with starting guns, timers, announcers, etc.

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical of spending the entire day at the track when my Son’s 3 events would take him a total about about 90 seconds. However, any opportunity to spend time with my family is a good one so I went looking forward mostly to that part of the day. However, I came away from the day with a lot more.

I got drawn into watching kids from 9 – 13 years old compete in all kinds of running events from the 50 meter dash to the 1600 meter run. Why? I absolutely loved watching these kids, including my son, digging deep within themselves and putting out incredible efforts. You could see in their faces the determination and focus going into their efforts and some were clearly turning themselves inside out to finish their race as fast as they possibly could. It didn’t seem to matter if the kid was first or sixth, the same level of effort went into the competition. What a great life lesson!

And that is why I will do everything in my power as a parent to make sure my son has opportunities to compete. Yes, the competition with the kid in the next lane or against the other team provides good lessons and perspectives for kids to learn early. But, the bigger lesson in my opinion is kids learning how to compete with themselves. In other words, making that internal connection what it feels like to push beyond what you originally thought possible. What better physiological lesson to learn early and often as a kid?

These lessons don’t need to be learned in traditional competitive sports. That competition happens in all kinds of activities. The dancer who won’t give up until he or she nails the move they’ve been practicing. The musician that repeats a piece over and over again until it sounds just right. They are all competing with themselves, trying to turn out their best performance, just like the kids on the track.

My son didn’t qualify for the State finals this weekend, but he beat his previous times in the 100 and 200 meter sprint. The lesson I know he learned from that effort about how to compete with himself is the best result I could hope for as a Dad.

Congrats Buddy!

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