I was born without much of a competitive gene. Either that or it was beaten out of me by the fact that I have always been miserable at team sports. My dyslexia really messed with my hand eye coordination. I don’t have much success making contact with moving objects. I have this one glorified moment as a child where I accidentally caused my team to win a game of turkey ball, when I caught the ball thrown at me while cowering. Or maybe, it’s just because I am way too wary of karma’s power to gloat about winning at anything. For whatever reason, I am just not competitive with others.
I am a bit competitive with myself however. I pushed myself into swimming my thirty laps today. It’s the second of November. It’s sixty-seven degrees outside right now, raining, and the pool temp is seventy-one. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. I warmed up after two laps as usual. The worst part was skimming the pool in my suit in the rain. I didn’t really get it as a kid. I didn’t push myself much at all. Maybe I was preoccupied by the whole business of growing up. It wasn’t easy for me as it isn’t easy for most. But still, I never learned how to push myself, or how to enjoy it until I was much, much older.
I was explaining to my kids the other day, the reason that I am so content that, so far, they haven’t gotten involved in competitive sports. I don’t dismiss their merit. I understand the value of learning discipline and teamwork through competition, but I believe that our society has let it get out of hand in a lot of ways. I see families engaging almost the entirety of their free time in the overwhelming schedules that team sports require them to keep up with. I witness these families missing out on time with their extended family, their friends, and each other. I also explained to my children that in some cases this is all working towards the slight possibility of a career in professional sports, which I told my kids I would never encourage them to have. Not only do professional sports players put their bodies through terrible amounts of abuse, they get paid completely unreasonable salaries for doing non-service jobs for their community.
I worked really hard to find a dance school when my children were little that wasn’t competition focused. I don’t know where that whole phenomenon started, but I suspect that it has a lot to do with dance schools charging more money for children to attend more events and earn more of those dreaded trophies. Dance is an art form after all…I just don’t get it I guess. I love to encourage my family to go out in the yard and play football while I cook every Thanksgiving dinner…for fun. I think that we have missed it, and we are being exploited by our competitive natures for profit. It may be unfortunate, but we are too strong and too smart to let it last much longer. I love the signs that are being put up at baseball fields reminding the adults to behave and not be so competitive. We need to take a collective deep breath and curb our need for competition around our children. The less competitive they are, the more open they are going to be to people on other teams when they grow up. I heard that they are doing away with the whole handshake routine for the teammates after many sporting events now because it is causing fights. Now that is just sad, and it’s time to fix it.