Saturday, July 08, 2006

Needs Underlying Competition

Back in May, there was a report about high school football coaches in Connecticut facing suspension if they "rout" opposing teams. Coaches say it's "unnecessary" to win by large margins.

I'm curious about what they mean by "necessary." I'm not clear what this new rule is meant to achieve. Is it intended to keep the losing team from feeling badly? Is it meant to shift the purpose, or intention, of the game - from winning to something else?

I have friends who dislike the idea of competition because it creates "winners" and "losers." I don't agree that creating winners and losers is negative, in and of itself. When I was a kid, my grandfather told me, "It isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." It's been my experience, in the 40-some years on the planet, that "Sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug." Peaks and valleys; ups and downs. It's part of life.

Also, I'm better than my friends are at some things; they're better than I am at others. Nobody's great at everything. Does that mean I feel crappy when my friends or coworkers outshine me? Only if I've got a stingy spirit.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Keeping score is one way of getting feedback, which is an important component of NLP and NVC. Am I paying attention? Am I being fully present to the game and to my teammates? Is my energy high? Am I playing to my strengths, and the strengths of others? Is my focus on what I'm doing well, or is it on my flaws? Am I distracted? Afraid? Arrogant? Worried? Am I so "in the flow" that there is no "me" or "them," it's just the rhythm of the game?

I worry that if we eliminate "winners" and "losers," we'll have attacked only the symptom - not the cause - of what we fear: creating a class of people who are "better"; more entitled to admiration, money, justice, comfort, respect, or whatever we value as a community.

I think about Shakespeare, Edison, Einstein, Salk, Steinbeck, Mozart, and all those whose works I feel grateful for. Would I have wanted them admonished to keep their achievements small, because it wasn't "necessary" to excel? Do I want to live in a society where people are encouraged not to do their best?

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