When the word “competition” is used in connection with sports, a lot of parents become alarmed at what their child might learn or to what they may be exposed when playing a competitive brand of hockey, soccer, or any sport.
“I don’t want my son to play competitive sports because I don’t want him to turn into a cut-throat competitor,” said a mother to me when we were discussing the new direction our children’s hockey league was taking. The small town league had announced that they were going to form a competitive layer of hockey with the little town next to ours, something neither could accomplish on its own with the small numbers both towns had.
“Is your son a cut-throat competitor in the classroom?” I asked.
“Of course not,” she said indignantly, “he works hard, but you can’t hurt anyone in the classroom by getting good marks.”
“You can’t hurt anyone in hockey by throwing a good pass or by scoring a goal either,” I returned. “The principle remains the same whether you are competing on the ice or in the classroom. You are trying to do the best you can. Our hockey league is simply opening up opportunities for the children who take the game seriously, and want to play a higher level of the sport.”
“I don’t want my child to take hockey seriously,” she replied, “and I don’t believe in children competing and trying to win anything.”
It was pretty hard to argue with someone whose mind is closed on the subject and so I didn’t bother to respond. I’ve wondered since what she actually did allow her child to take seriously, and what became of him when life unfolded in all its many competitive aspects.
Competition on the Ice is Like Competition in the Classroom
Sooner or later, we are thrown into the competition ring and how it is presented to us often affects our attitudes throughout life. Most parents teach children how to play simple games like how to catch or trap the ball when it’s rolled towards them, and how to roll it back, often at very early ages. When the child learns what is expected, we react with pleasure, and the child learns that success is rewarded.
As the child grows and learns to play other games, their accomplishment is admired and the idea of success and reward are forever linked.
And so it should be. Feeling good about our accomplishments is a great motivator. We like to be admired, praised, to “win” approval in the classroom, in the game, on the playground, at the music festival, with our peers, with the opposite sex, in the job interview – everywhere.
People Who Like to Hurt and Bully Find Opportunities Everywhere
Sports don’t turn people into a bullies or “cut-throat competitors,” willing to do anything to win (or not lose) including using physical or psychological abuse. However, the sports world makes such people very visible, thereby encouraging onlookers to believe it is the sport that creates these kinds of behaviors. However, the sad fact is that some people enjoy hurting and bullying, and they are with us in all our worlds.
Children often turn to books for information about life and there is a great teaching opportunity in children’s literature to help shape the attitudes of young readers. In writing sports mysteries, my goals are to make reading fun, to encourage kindness, fairness, and team effort, and to reinforce the idea that competing – which generates winning and losing – is a part of everyone’s life.
Something’s Missing is for sale in paperback at this link to Amazon.com, or by clicking on this Amazon.ca link, and at Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores. If your child enjoys e-book reading, watch for the Kindle version, coming soon.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Maureen Grenier and a clickable link back to this page.