Competition not Competitiveness!

I remember watching footy with my Dad as a young fella and I would ask him who he wanted to win, and he would say “I don’t mind, just as long as it’s a good game.” At the time I thought he was so weird! I mean how could you seriously watch your team lose and think it was a good game!!! But funnily enough, these days I find myself saying exactly the same thing to my own kids. While being a fan of the Eels, the Swans, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Sydney Sixers, I really don’t mind if they lose just as long as they have a go and it’s a good game.

It’s something that has really developed in me as I have gotten older – the love of competition without having to be competitive.

I have been in many very competitive environments in my life, where winning is the sole focus. From my experience, this leads to overloads of stress and anxiety, and people justifying bending the rules or being bad sports all because they were “just trying to win”. I regularly compete with my own kids at home – from card games to board games and video games, to sport in the backyard and the pool – and I always emphasise the fun of competition over winning.

As a High School Coordinator I have also tried to instill this attitude into our school. I love the fact that the high school students have really embraced our House system and love to compete with each other. I ham up the competition as much as possible and I genuinely encourage the kids to compete to the best of their ability, but I hope I also encourage them that winning is not as important as competing.

In schools, it is easy for competition to become unhealthy. Some kids are more naturally gifted in some areas than others – that’s just how God made us. If we only focus on winning, we will give up as soon we realise that winning is not probable. Therefore, it is vital to reinforce that it is competing, not winning, that needs to drive us. When kids enjoy competing, they won’t be worried if someone else beats them, as long as they have tried their absolute best.

I saw this positive attitude time and again at our recent Swimming Carnival, and I hope to continue seeing it in the future in all aspects of school life. I have encouraged this attitude to grow in the high school by bringing in end of year awards for students who improve their grades the most, as well as recognising those who received the highest grades. Right now, I’m working on ways to give more recognition to those kids who work hard and do their best at all times, no matter what their level of achievement is – in my eyes, the biggest achievement for ALL students is when they do their best and always strive to improve.

Mr Greg Ballantyne