Instilling a Healthy Sense of Competitiveness

GPS Blog
This week our varsity soccer team will compete in the TSSAA semifinals against Hutchison in hopes of moving on to the eventual state championship game on Friday. Our girls have been training hard all season, and a win on the pitch would be considerable cause for celebration. Go Bruisers!

At GPS we don’t just champion our girls to succeed on the field, though. We recognize that the lessons they learn while participating in athletics will carry them far beyond a rivalry win or state championship—they’ll help them become strong, independent adults who achieve their goals in life.

In order to succeed in all facets of life, it’s important to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy mindsets as they relate to a competitive spirit. Here are a few reminders about healthy competition:

Healthy competition is about setting and accomplishing goals, not just winning or losing.
Take a basketball game. Rather than placing all focus on the outcome of the game, you can set a goal to increase the number of shots you take or your scoring percentage. This provides an objective for you to measure and work toward. The same idea applies to the classroom. Challenge yourself to speak up more in class or start studying for a test a night earlier than you normally would.

Healthy competition isn’t always focused on other people; you can compete against yourself.
When your sole focus is to beat others, you can develop an unhealthy sense of competition that leaves you feeling either superior if you win or inferior if you lose. Sometimes you should be your own competition. Imagine playing in a golf tournament. Did you overcome mental hurdles after a bad shot that would have previously instigated a meltdown? Were you more strategic with your club selection? The skills you learn from competing with yourself will serve you well later in life when you are applying to colleges or interviewing for jobs. You’ll learn to reflect on what you’ve done well while identifying growth opportunities.

Failure is inevitable; it’s how you recover that matters.
Your team lost in the softball state championship game. What now? Obviously, a loss at any level is tough. You’ve been working hard all season to compete at your highest level, and you were hoping to come away victorious. When that doesn’t happen, you have two options: sulk or look for areas to improve. Maybe you struck out more than once. This summer would be an excellent time to get outside for extra batting practice. Believing you can improve with practice and mental fortitude is called a “growth mindset,” and it’s how we teach all our girls to learn at GPS.

Nervous energy before a big competition is normal; excess stress and anxiety is not.
Most people feel a rush of adrenaline before a big competition. Picture yourself at the starting line before your boat launches for a 2K race at a major regatta. The butterflies are crazy! But if you're feeling so much stress and anxiety leading up to the event that you can’t eat or sleep, it can signify an unhealthy relationship with competition. You compete in athletics for your enjoyment—don’t forget that! If you feel your relationship with competition is skewing negatively, talk to your coach for tips and tricks to help calm your nerves and reframe your idea of success. The same can be said for your thought process before a big exam or presentation!

Empathy and teamwork are paramount.
Simply put, in competition, there are winners and losers. Being supportive to those who finish behind you is always a healthy choice. It’s also important to recognize what it means to be part of a team. Just because you’re the leading scorer on the soccer team doesn’t mean you have to take every single shot. Pass the ball to someone who might be a bit more timid on the field and encourage her confidence to score a goal! Teamwork and empathy are major components of life after school, and the greatest success falls to those who treat others with respect.

Competition is a given in life. Learning to reframe how you experience and respond to it can make all the difference in your happiness and relationship to success. Give yourself grace and focus on opportunities for growth!