By ALEXANDER CASTRO
When kids are pushed, they are driven to innovate more, to work harder and to improve their skills. Yet when kids are pushed too hard, they get swept up in a flood of overcompetition, disappointment and stress.
Particularly, competition plays a key role in sports, motivating people to practice more and play harder. This competition in sports also allows people to explore their strengths and weaknesses in a safe environment free from judgement or prejudice. Especially during childhood years, aspiring athletes can enjoy sports without the fear of failure or disappointment.
In the end, sports are simply games meant to aid in self improvement and amusement, they should not be allowed to consume free time or enjoyment of the sport.
As kids start to take an interest in teams, unknowingly, they set off a catalyst: one that, when they are older, leads to sports becoming more of a burden than an enjoyable experience.
An over-competitive mindset emerges as children’s abilities to play the games improve. Competitive pressure increases exponentially; as more time, energy and effort are demanded from would-be athletes. As a result, once-determined youths may not participate out of the fear that they will be overloaded by the massive workload. This contradicts the enjoyable nature and spirit of improvement in sports.
Kids who continue to play competitively and become excessively involved, tend to place an unnecessary amount of stress and pressure on themselves to get everything right. When kids are held to such high expectations, it sets them up for failure and disappointment. Demanding perfection in every competition is inherently unattainable and encourages athletes to place greater emphasis on the end result, as opposed to the journey to improve.
In other words, they aim to earn “bragging rights” from competitions and miss the intention of sports: personal growth. This unhealthy desire for bragging rights—namely trophies—is especially prevalent to the overly competitive athlete. To them, a trophy represents their achievements, and in this quest for praise and titles, overly competitive athletes create an environment where the “fun” aspect of sports is overshadowed by the glory of being the best. Accordingly, as levels of competition begin to grow, accomplishments begin holding less value as winning becomes ordinary. Third place is suddenly much less worthwhile than first place. Even if they make a memorable accomplishment it will be undermined by criticism and unrealistic expectations.
Additionally, in an overly competitive environment, players will stop at nothing to win, including utilizing dirty tactics. One example of this is “redshirting,” where players are held out of commision for a season or set period of time to sharpen skills and lengthen their eligibility.
The most blatant underhanded tactic may be cheating. It is a large part of the competitive world no matter what the event. It is unfair to those who have equal potential to be edged out by dishonest tactics. When competitors win fraudulently, athletes are robbed of their potential and the game is no longer fun. Part of competition is knowing that there is always a chance of winning, but over-competitive kids decreases the chances for other teams, turning away contenders from an otherwise pleasurable activity.
One way to fix these problems is to root out the corruption at its source. Students should not be given the opportunity to show up athletes who used honest and just methods to better themselves. The less people that use corrupt methods to achieve their goals, the more enjoyable it will be for everyone else.
Furthermore, we must lower the exceedingly high expectations from many youth sports teams. Ultimately, high school students join sports teams to blow off steam or challenge themselves, not to spend every waking moment stressing about the next game.