Why winning, healthy competition are good for the soul

Opinion by Delaney Stekr

delaneystekrtrophyPicture this: 15 red-faced 5-year-olds running around a field trying not to trip over their own feet who eventually manage to get a ball into a goal. A rather painful sight, but this micro-soccer experience is generally where children get their first sense of competition.  

Competition and hard work are extremely American values. You compete, you work hard and eventually you will reach your goals. Regardless of if this philosophy is applied in sports, school or just life in general, healthy competition is always a good thing. 

But when competition is taken away and the mentality becomes “everyone’s a winner,” children lose the understanding that hard work equates a reward. When children grow up thinking that they will win regardless of  their effort, they lose out on the joy that can come from working hard and earning a victory, instead of winning simply for showing up. 

In reality, there is no such thing as winning for participation. You get what you work for, and simply showing up is not going to earn you much. Competition, and sports in particular, instill values of hard work, teamwork and learning how to cope with failure at an early age. If a child is taught that as long as they try their best they are winners, they will have a tough time when they try their best and still get denied from a college, or do not get the job they applied for. 

While sheltering a child can give them immediate happiness, the end result is a child with an inability to cope. Understanding how to both win and lose with grace are vital life skills, and competition fosters both of those. 

Competition does not have a strict application to sports, but just allowing children to compete in anything, and teaching them that losing is okay, teaches that if they keep working and persisting they could get the result that they desire. 

In the moment, losses seem to be the worst possible outcome, but in reality the lessons learned from losses can be more powerful than never being tested or failing. 

Competition has given me an understanding of hard work, and how important it is to respect all opponents. It has taught me to treat all aspects of life with the same attitude that nothing will be handed to you, and that to get what I want I have to work hard and likely, beat other people out. Life as a whole is a competition, and there will always be winners and losers; persevere, work hard and you could end up with the life you want. 

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