It is accepted that a bit of healthy competition in any field is known to enhance motivation and generate increased effort from among those competing.
The sporting field is no exception to this rule and while here will always be varying levels of sporting talent and interest across any group of people, the benefits that competitive sport provides are still accessible to all.
It was the spirit of competition that first revealed to us our respective strengths and weaknesses. Even in losing, by coping with the negative emotional feedback of a loss, we develop self-esteem and more importantly, address our fears and confront our insecurities by rising to challenges.
There are many little known advantages and disadvantages of competition in education and play. While competition in schools develop self-discipline and drive in students, competition in education and sport when purposed and packaged inappropriately can fail to encourage learning and development. It can instead foster a solely results-driven mindset and a child who does not value the bigger picture.
I recall in the early to mid-1990s, heading to the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain with my father to see the West Indies play. And for a Test match, we would be lining up outside the gates from as early as 6.30 am to not only see our favourites in the West Indies team but also the renowned players from the visiting teams.
For me, like many of my friends at the time, it was a great spectacle to witness the Pakistan fast bowling duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Every young fast bowler at the time wanted to be like those two. They were menacing, highly competitive and regarded as one of the best bowling duos the world has seen. Some years later, after much speculation about the tension, there was between the two due to their competitive spirit, Younis spoke out.
"I am really good friends with Wasim, he has always been an elder brother," Waqar said. "He has always supported and helped me on the field, off the field. Yeah, we had issues. He didn't only have issues with me but we had issues in the team those days, which yes, if you ask me the truth, yes I do regret at times because you know it did not really help Pakistan cricket.
"We wanted to compete [with] each other, we wanted to take more wickets than the other one and I think in a way, it did help. But yeah, if you ask me that particular episode, yes, we all regret it because it shouldn't have happened. It was ugly those days but those days we were younger and we didn't know much, now [we are] probably wiser and we want to improve things."
Waqar felt the standard of the first-class level in Pakistan and other places have diminished with too many teams being involved and advocated "serious competition" to produce quality cricketers.
There are lessons to be learned from the competitiveness between the two men. One is that good competition brings out the best but persons must know to go through that process in a way that it doesn’t bring negative effects to the bigger cause such as the team or country.
Competition among athletes trying to make the final squad is constant. I always admire goalkeepers for instance. Two or three guys competing for one spot in the starting 11 and still managing to train together in a healthy spirit and be good with each other off the pitch. It's not like outfield players such as a left-back or midfielder who may still be able to make the side in another role. As a goalkeeper, if you don't make the cut, there is no other option.
There is a role for both competitive and non-competitive sporting pursuits. Casual sports are a great way to get some exercise whilst enjoying time with friends, but there are a number of other advantages to sport that can only be found in competition. Competitive sport is important in education for several reasons. It encourages higher standards of achievement; encourages stronger physical activity; builds discipline; teaches how to lose well and deal with disappointment; and builds camaraderie and teamwork.
Competition between employees or members of a team is also an inescapable part of most people’s work lives. Most companies and organisations create a dynamic workplace in which employees compete against each other for recognition, bonuses, and promotions. Some research studies suggest such competition can motivate employees, make them put in more effort, and achieve results.
Competition increases psychological activation, which prepares the body and mind for increased effort and enables higher performance. And there are unusual ways also. I've been around national teams where head coaches arranged sporting quizzes or cross-training to generate fun in a competitive environment. Leo Beenhakker did it, like the cricket games for instance during the 2006 campaign, and Dennis Lawrence and Stephen Hart included it in their programmes while at the helm.
Employees can achieve their results in different ways. Some use an unethical path toward results that has very high long-term costs. Several studies have been conducted showing that when employees or members of a team interpret their arousal from a competition as anxiety, they are less likely to select creative behaviours to solve problems, and more likely to be unethical.
Conversely, when people interpret their arousal from a competition as excitement, they are more likely to select creative behaviours to solve problems, and less likely to be unethical.
We all have choices. The bottom line is a competitive spirit is a drive to win, to come out on top. And that’s a good thing. While you may not want to be consumed by competition, a competitive spirit surely can help us in all aspects of and at any point of our lives once done in the right manner.
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and currently a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation.