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Michael Wilkes. File Photo: SUPPLIED

Winning’s great…

A group of boys are playing some rugby on the school field and one catches the ball, and another yells out ‘run it straight’. The spirt of a warrior kicks in, the drive of competition begins to rise and the boy pushes off hard on his back foot leaning forward into a full sprint.
They lock eyes and drive towards each other fixing for battle. One drops down low ready to tackle, the other leans in harder for the charge. A knee collides with a shin and the attacker ends up on his back feeling the pain of a broken leg. It was a pure accident, and yet it has me pause to consider competition. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes people get hurt. We recently had one of our school groups decide for their community day (in which we focus on showing others they matter) choose to invite another class of year eights to join them for a period of fun games and put on a shared lunch. Our concerns for the event began when we discovered that the real heart for the event was to win. It was not about lifting the others up, but about winning, and winning convincingly. And so, we encouraged them to use their noticer and observe how quickly competition can turn things ugly. Don’t get me wrong here, I love a good competition. I love a good chance to run it straight and see how it works out.

But we need to keep ourselves in check. I remember a friend who decided to quit competitive boxing because he didn’t like what happened to him in the ring. He was the nicest guy outside of it. But as soon as he entered it, he described a feeling that would come over him where he was genuinely out for blood. He decided sparring was fun but competition like that was not for him.
When competition changes from something fun to something toxic it has gone too far. When a group of friends come together to play and it leads to them ready to go to blows it has not been a success. But when its on the sports field we can except it often as a healthy thing most games. But when competition weasels its way into our workplaces or our homes it is often not so healthy. Passive aggressive jabs, withholding information, and hoping ill of a person’s project in favour of our own. Knocking your child down a notch when they have experienced success, critiquing when its not needed and one-upping each other’s stories, when we should simply be listening does not help.
Today I simply pause to consider competition. I am competitive to a fault. In a board game or on the field, that is okay (mostly). But today I pause to consider the times and spaces at home and at work where maybe competition has caused me to forget that others matter. And I remind myself that in most cases the success of others around me is a good thing, because when we support success we share it and build a culture that gives life.
– Michael Wilkes is a Living Well Trust Youth Worker