— Good Or Bad? Essay, Research Paper

THE SPIRIT OF COMPETITION In the sixteenth century, competition, mainly in sports, was a huge phenomenon. On the surface, many of those activities, such as running, archery, and horse-racing appear rather inconsequential. Nowadays, when psychologists take a closer look at the effects of competition, more controversy is surfacing; for instance, whether competition is beneficial or unhealthy to children and adults. Authors, such as Alfie Kohn, have put forward a radical case against rivalry. In his article Why Competition? Kohn explains that the problem lies in the temptation to win at all costs, even if it involves bending the rules. This inevitably leads to a battle with one s conscience where the individual only sees life in terms of winners and losers. In another context, however, competition has its benefits. Although in his essay Competition as a Mixed Good, author Richard Eggerman admits that competition does have its drawbacks, he still stresses that competition possesses greater good than evil. Team competition offers opportunities for competitors to interact socially, thus building cooperation and interpersonal understanding. Additionally, competition can accentuate skill-building and strategy-building, teach ways to identify personal goals, and provide ways to develop criteria for success. In acknowledging both the negative and positive aspects of competition, I ultimately side with Eggerman s viewpoint; that competition can offer more positive ways for one to develop socially, physically, and mentally. Common knowledge suggests that competition is generally good for children, but any of the social, physical, and mental benefits can be lost through overindulgence or abuse. Humans are born with an instinct to survive, but the desires to win and to compete are learned through social interactions. Team sports are designed for learning teamwork in which all members are part of the excitement. However, Kohn argues that when those on the other side are excluded from any possible community…they are generally regarded with suspicion and contempt in any competitive enterprise. In other words, when one gets too caught up in the goal of winning, he or she loses sight of the object of the game. On the other hand, working together on the same team spurs interaction among children, often achieving team bonding and greater motivation to perform well. Competitiveness can become tainted when one s mind tells the individual that cheating or even the usage of drugs will ensure heightened success. These forms of self-deception hinder the person from achieving his or her true physical capacity to compete. Eggerman believes that an individual will realize that playing while injured or drugged is at odds with the most effective pursuit of their goals of maximal long-term development. Clearly, the enlightened competitor will not cheat him or herself out of general fitness. Lastly, Kohn asserts that society places too much emphasis on the mental attitude to be better than someone else. Kohn notices that even schools push students to become brighter than, quicker than, better achievers than our classmates. On the other hand, Eggerman cites studies showing that competitive people tend to be more self-assertive, tough-minded, self-sufficient, forthright, emotionally detached, and cheerfully optimistic with an absence of severe mood swings. These traits are acquired through repetitive triumphs and defeats in competition. At last, in Eggerman s own words, competition is neither an unqualified evil, as Kohn would claim, nor an unqualified good…but it is on balance more likely to be a good than an evil. Bringing together participants of diverse backgrounds, competition can act as a driving force in the social arena. At my place of employment, the top supervisor offered me and a co-worker a managerial position. Since only one of us can be promoted, we have to compete against each other for the status. In this situation, both people are pushed to their maximum levels, increasing efforts towards a certain goal. Equally important, Eggerman points out that a competitive atmosphere leads participants to perform beyond their normal level. Runners frequently discover that a tough race leads them to performances they never dreamed possible, performances far superior to anything they can push themselves to in training. Evidently, competitive situations can result in social facilitation, the tendency for one to perform better when others are present.

Involvement in sports ranks as one of the top benefits of competition due to its physical exercise. Regular participation in athletic events such as running, swimming, and cycling improve the participant s cardiovascular fitness. Other sports such as football and hockey contribute more toward body toning, muscular strength, and endurance. Games by their very nature require cooperation and a high degree of interaction and commitment. For instance, in order for a soccer team to win games, teammates must work together. The better each player performs, the more likely the entire team will emerge victorious. Indeed, the virtues of united efforts and positive participation lead team members to experience shared goals, shared identities, and a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, in sport competitions, members of a team motivate each other by slapping high-fives and uttering words of support. This enthusiasm provokes individuals to put forth their best efforts at succeeding. Consequently, competition in group sports bonds team members together and leads individuals to a higher level of physical achievement. The positive connection between competitiveness and one s mental state cannot be ignored. In childhood, youngsters pick up signals transmitting the message that positive reinforcement is associated with winning. One easily fails to see that defeat should not always be regarded in a bad light. The loss to competitors can motivate a person to try harder the next time. It is an opportunity for the individual to seek justification for his or her past mistakes, and to gain knowledge of how he or she can improve. Eggerman summarizes by stating that failures simply do not lead in a consistent way to deleterious effects upon the psyche of the competitor, for he or she realizes that competition will provide him or her with another day and a second chance. Professional sportsman and sportswoman are usually very gracious in victory, for every winner has experienced defeat, and accepts that the loser will have another chance to fight back. Although Kohn brings in several problematic views of competition, the positives still outweigh the negatives when humans experience competitiveness in its social, physical, and mental contexts. Kohn debates that a child s competition in a social environment curbs positive interaction among peers. He believes they will perceive others as foes, however, this is not usually the case. Often, peers reward one another with gestures that will motivate each other to perform at his or her best. Participating in team sports gives people a new sense of confidence, and unites them towards a common goal. A positive connection exists between a healthy body and a higher degree of mental astuteness. Individuals who engage in competitive activities exhibit a higher sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Competition has its drawbacks, but ultimately prevails as a rewarding activity that extends into social, physical, and mental activities.

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