By Ken Reed

I was recently listening to a sports panel discussion and the topic was “Is Competition Good or Bad?”

There were strong arguments on both sides but my takeaway was “It’s both.” It all depends on how a given individual looks at competition.

Competition can be viewed as a zero sum game, where somebody wins and someone always loses. In this view, competition is seen as pure conflict in which war terminology — like “the enemy” — is often used.

Or, competition can be viewed as a cooperative effort in which the participants make each other better in a way that wouldn’t happen if the competition didn’t occur.

I think the second viewpoint is healthier. It requires a “striving-with” vs.a “striving-against” mentality. This approach has been defined as “healthy competition” or “true competition.”

Here are a couple definitions of true competition:

“Genuine competition is a form of cooperation that enables participants to push each other towards personal excellence, while experiencing the exhilaration of the contest. It’s striving with competitors not striving against. Striving against is de-competition, not true competition. It’s the difference between a ‘partnership metaphor’ and a ‘war metaphor.’” (David Light Shields & Brenda Light Bredemeier)

“Competition presupposes a cooperative effort by competitors to generate the best possible challenge to each other.” (R.L. Simon)

If all athletes and coaches approached sports competition as “true competition” I think SportsWorld would be a much better place to be.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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