Jeff Farris
Though competition for adults is often about more substantive matters, competition is most intense and pronounced in kids. Every day, kids compete to:
  • Be the first ready for school
  • Get the largest dessert
  • Win at a video game
  • Be the first in line
  • Get the best grade
  • Get the best spot in the cafeteria
  • Get the attention of the opposite sex
  • Get a greater share of parental attention
  • Get into the best school
  • Get a job (or avoid a job)
  • Be selected for a team
Competition is best understood when there is a clear opportunity to win or to lose. When it comes to youth sports, competition often becomes synonymous with winning the game. Yet, this simple translation of success may often cause more problems than it solves.

A single minded pursuit of victory in a game may often translate into problems in relationships with teammates or others. Players who are only focused on winning the game may:
  • Lash out at teammates
  • Throw equipment
  • Argue with referees or coaches
  • Show moments of intense anger
  • Lie or cheat
  • Play unfairly
The dictionary defines the word competitive as “Showing a fighting disposition”. A fighting disposition is a great thing to have against opponents, but it may sometimes be hard to quickly turn off when dealing with teammates, referees or a sibling.

Competing is a Life Skill
Parents need to help their child understand the process of competing. Competition may show itself in many ways other than just a strong desire to win a game. Parents can focus kids on a broader understanding of competition, such as competing against past performances or winning in multiple areas. Parents can help their kids:
  • Understand what they are competing to achieve (be the best player, be a team leader, make the smartest plays)
  • Understand how to apply their competitive spirit with their friends and teammates
  • Understand that winning at all costs has consequences (hurt feelings, resentments, loss of respect)
  • Understand that a win achieved unfairly is not a victory
  • Understand that other kids may not show competitive spirit the same way
  • Understand when not to be competitive at all
Winning is more than a scoreboard. It takes parents to help kids understand the differences. Like all other life skills, helping kids find balance is essential to a lifetime of success.