It’s the competing that counts – Mr Cohen

The removal of competition and replacing it with the “everyone’s a winner” mentality is a relatively new phenomenon within schools in the UK. Many students are now experiencing the emergence of this new mentality as they go through school. When I was of school age, there were winners and losers. If you wanted recognition, you had to be the best. However, as I began teaching, the standards required to be considered a “winner” started to change. Competitions and tournaments that crowned individuals and teams as winners started to disappear because it “wasn’t fair” to the other competitors. People started receiving a participation trophy and the phrase “A for effort” suddenly was seen as a compliment and a sense of achievement. While the criticism towards the “everyone’s a winner” mentality is mostly focused on sporting events, this mentality will ruin much more than youth sports. Competition is, in my mind, essential for a young person’s development. Removing competition early in life will inhibit a student’s ability to cope when faced with challenges later on in life. I believe strongly that competition in school, whether it is on the sports field or in the classroom, plays a vital role in helping a young person prepare to survive in a cut-throat world where competition is prevalent in adult life, and the idea of getting rid of it is ridiculous!

Competition can drive us to learn at a faster rate and perform at a higher level. When you compete against someone or even yourself you have a target that will help you to push a little harder. In doing so you can surprise yourselves with what you are capable of accomplishing. Competition also teaches us to give our best effort. Keeping score or setting targets will give you extra motivation to do your best. Competition drives you to pursue excellence.

Competition teaches us to manage our nerves. When something puts us out of our comfort zone or pushes us to perform, it’s normal to feel butterflies in your stomach. Competition helps to bring those butterflies out, so we can work on managing them; they release endorphins that can help improve a person’s performance. This is something that can be useful when taking exams, interviewing for jobs and giving presentations. Competition shouldn’t be feared. It is said by the “competition is bad” camp that young people fear competition. This is because they make it into something scarier or more important than it needs to be. In fact, once young people experience competition under a correctly managed situation, they realise that it wasn’t so scary after all. Once young people have realised that competition is not something of which to be frightened, it helps them to try and take risks. This develops confidence to try and do things that are hard or uncomfortable.

One of the most important lessons that competition teaches people is how to cope when things do not go our way. Sometimes in life you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as well as you wanted to. Young people can learn resilience and grit at these times. Resilience and grit are two traits that most certainly are essential in adulthood. Competition helps us to learn to win and lose with grace. Nobody likes a boastful person, and nobody likes a sore loser. Competition gives young people the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment and to learn how to process those feelings.

Self-esteem is something that cannot just be handed to anyone; it is something that young people must earn. Competition is one way young people can gain self-esteem. When you develop a talent and work hard for a result, it feels great. When you fail and learn that you can bounce back, you feel more confident in yourself because you understand that you have resilience.

The removal of competition and the introduction of the “everyone’s a winner” mentality is creating a new type of person, the person who thinks they’re the best at everything and that no one will ever say anything negative to them. The problem is, people will say negative things to them and they won’t necessarily be able to handle it.

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