Friday, December 15, 2006

The Competitive Edge

Note at the start - my family are not land creatures - put us in a foot race and be prepared to wait it out - in the water it is a different thing, however.

Yesterday was the "swimming fun day" for dd's school (the years 4-7 had a competition, 1-3 not allowed competition because it could damage the children's psyche).

All week, dd has been saying she is going to win the backstroke, as she won last year (same scenario - no official placings but my goodness the kids all know!) and she has been trying very hard and practicing.

I saw her in the freestyle - there were about 20 kids across the pool and it was more a maul than a well structured assault - and she did okay. As I do the reading with the kids, every one of them in her class (and a few in the other class who I don't know) came up to me and told me how they had fared.

As they were not doing official placings, everyone got rewarded by being doled out a reward at the end of each "race" - a lolly.

The kids were not so well behaved after a few laps'n'lollies routines - I wonder why.

Anyway, proud mummy moment - in the mayhem that was the backstroke, my daughter did reach the end first. I really think it is her mindset that got her there for that - she can be as good in the other styles, but she now thinks she has a speciality and it is backstroke and noone is going to take her glory away!!!

The Competitive Hedge

I was never naturally competitive at sports - never good enough to be lol - but had a very competitive family, and lived in a very competitive region.

My school softball team won the B-schools softball shield every year I was in it - lol with only 13 girls to choose from in the whole school, most everyone was in the team from about grade 2, and reserves from grade 1, so we were a fairly tight crew.

My father was a competitive swimmer, polocrosse player (his team won National Titles in the early 1960s) and campdrafter.

My grandparents met because they were both competitive campdrafters. My grandfather was also a boxer, while my grandmother was in the victorious Queensland campdraft team at the Royal Easter Show in the 1930s - her brother and father, also, and my great-grandfather actually bred champion stock horses.

My sister was a swimming champion, a high-jump champion, an artist and writer (now photographer) of some brilliance, and even had a stint at beauty queen!

My brother was too small to play Union, which was his heart's desire... So he took up weightlifting to build himself up and became Queensland Schoolboy Champion. Then he (who couldn't get a game in the Under 13 Es) was some sort of head or other prop in the first 15, although his ultimate dream was to be a hooker. He played at college and then undertook playing for a team 150km from home - he didn't get to many training sessions - he got this close to a Queensland Country jumper but never quite made the Wallabys. When he finished with Rugby, he started woodchopping and did very well for himself until fatherhood put a damper on his time.

My uncle has only just returned from his final National Titles for polocrosse – his team didn’t win the title (were in the finals) but he thought it was time to hang up his reins – the body doesn’t bounce back as well at 56 as it did at 17.

My mother's family's competitive genes are more on the side of art and acadaemia. (I will go into that kettle another time).

So you could say it was pretty competitive, the family I grew up in.

I wasn't very good at many things - reading is not a competition, meek on a horse after a few too many busters, too myopic to take much interest in things of speed or precision (although we didn't know it).

But I trained - I would do 80-100 laps every morning - and I eventually got good enough to beat the local champion at breaststroke on the zone trials - I even got this close to a spot in the State Championships.

I was also in a rowing crew at boarding school. Now, for someone 5' 4", rowing is actually not the best sport to be in! But we trained - we had rowing every morning and 5 afternoons a week we would do sprints, weights and long-distance running. Did I mention that my family are not good across land? But we eventually got good enough to go to the National Titles. We blitzed the heats, lost an oar in the semis, someone cracked one of our oars just before the repacharge but we got into the finals by this much. Lost the finals big-time!!!

Now, I know it is not such a great thing, being quite as competitive as my family were (are) - but it is a case of the baby with the bathwater sometimes. Actually working really hard to achieve a goal - as I did with that training long ago - is a really good thing to learn, and as early as possible. It doesn't mean that you should live your life by it, but it is there as a handy life tool.

The Competitive Ledger

Anyhow - your thoughts - is it better to give kids crap sugar treats all equally and pretend there is no competitive nature than to allow kids to aspire and wish to extend themselves while finding some (yet unidentified in my mind) way of encouraging the others?

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Tracey said...

I think I am agreeing with your last statement/question there Jeanie. I don't see the point in taking away the kudos for getting first/second/third and that. If we take away every opportunity to strive for something, then there is no need to work hard at anything.
And I definitely hate the 'everyone gets a lolly' idea.
I'm a mum whose kids have managed to get places in swimming and cross country running.. (yet, I remember all too well my own childhood of never coming anywhere in a race - and so I feel for the kids who aren't naturally sporty.

So I do think everyone who participates should be recognised. Another mum at our school, who moved up from the ACT, told me about how for school athletics carnivals, every kid got a big safety pin on their shirt. For every race they participated in, they got a ribbon threaded onto it. Place getters got a different coloured ribbon, that's all. At the end of the day, there were all these little chests proudly sporting these ribbony badges of honour. I think that's a great idea.

I have similar issues with my girls' netball association. This year, every one in the junior AND intermediate compeition got a trophy... It SO took away from the winners and runners up trophies... it is going to be my crusade (as part of the committee) to get that decision changed. By all means give them something... but you have to reward placegetters.