Competition usually implies one winner and many losers. I like the idea that “there’s enough room at the top for everyone”. That way, more people become winners!
Paul and I just spent 3 days watching our daughter Jacquie compete in the CrossFit Regional Games in Tacoma Washington. Qualifying for this event is not easy, requiring hours and hours of daily training and a focus on healthy eating and clean living. Just qualifying for the Regionals is an extraordinary accomplishment!
CrossFit is a fitness program that is inclusive and uses everyday life activities as a guide to the exercises. The CrossFit culture considers the heaviest loads we carry in our daily lives and training is determined with the idea of “the more work you do in the least amount of time, the more intense the effort.” Practicing CrossFit, then, is considered to be the ‘sport of fitness’.
Jacquie has been practicing CrossFit for 5 years. She has always been a physically strong girl, involved in gymnastics in her childhood and dance as she grew into her teens. Competition was something she avoided. She seemed to love the sport, and, traditionally lost interest when competition became the ‘next step’.
As a teacher, I acknowledge and honour the need for including competition in planning my lessons. The challenges provided by ‘performing better than’ someone else often inspire better performance. A little bit of stress could sometimes enhance results. I am mindful too, that too much stress can also jeopardize performance. Fear of failure often supersedes the desire to try. I am convinced that many young people don’t even attempt to learn something new because they are afraid that they won’t be successful. (“I sure would like to be an accountant, but the exams are so difficult”, or “I’m not good enough. I might as well go into retail”)
Years ago while attending a Franklin Covey seminar I was introduced to an exciting model for healthy competition. The scenario described is of a tennis match where all levels participated and no one was ‘eliminated’. Scoring lower than others simply shifted the match in which a participant played but everyone played until the end. There is a winner, and, I suppose, a loser, and the point is that ‘everybody wins because everybody gets to play’. Malcolm Gladwell, (Outliers) also reinforces the idea that, when the focus is redirected from ‘winning’, everyone continues to be part of the game, and each player improves in her/his sport. Simply practicing improves performance. How ironic that those who need the most practice are eliminated from that opportunity.
“There’s enough room at the top.” That’s an idea I believe in strongly. On our island of Gabriola there are many people with wonderful progressive ideas. So much of what is promoted here focuses on similar concepts… inclusivity, health, mental wellness, mindfulness, participation, and appreciation. These are ideas that so often come up in workshops, meetings and other places of gathering. We all want similar things, we simply do it in different ways. That’s a good thing because the more ways we do something the more apt we will be to connect with a diverse group of people. That’s what we want - to have everyone involved.
In CrossFit there is awareness that natural camaraderie, competition and the love of the ‘game’ constitutes enough inspiration to play. Fear of failure defined by one person performing better than another, creates unnecessary stress, even absolute fear, which often leads to nonparticipation. In CrossFit, competition happens only with self. Use of white boards as scoreboards, recording information, clocking performance, and clearly outlining and defining rules and standards increases motivation and, ultimately, performance.
Jacquie is a winner simply because she is playing at The Regionals. I love watching the way she concentrates on what she is doing. Her deep breaths, inhaling slowly and completely with both hands spread wide over her knees as she hunches over her folded body, eyes directed to nowhere, Her deep focus and meditative stance during each activity reinforces her ‘being present’. She never gives up… not even when her performance is slower and/or not as great as she would have wanted. She cares about her self. And she is also there to support and root for others. Her skill and physical endurance continues to grow. When the weekend ends, there are many highlights and accomplishments, and apart from the joy that is evident, the tears that are shed are only tears of joy. Everyone this weekend is a winner! What a wonderful feeling for all!