THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
I know we have bored readers with the exhaustive look at self-esteem and its relationship to competition and sportsmanship over the past few weeks. So we'll move on...slightly...
If you're looking for more material on similar subjects, check out the old book "Problem Athletes and How to Handle Them" by Bruce Ogilvie and Thomas Tutko. Although published many moons ago, there is a key point that holds true and reflects some interesting thoughts for us today.
According to their research, participants in athletics "with immense character strengths" actually tend to avoid competitive sports.
That's right. If you subscribe to this train of thought, if you see someone who does not enjoy competition (specifically athletics), that person has a lot of strength in the ol' noggin. This is an amazing thought when we consider begin to consider old phrases about how competition builds character, etc.
Along these lines, according to Ogilvie and Tutko, competition actually can fuel things such as depression, extreme stress, and the tendency to only have relatively shallow relationships. Perhaps that may be a bit obtuse, but the theory seems to hold truth.
Look, we're all going to face competition. And just because research shows something like this doesn't mean that we should give up competitive athletics. What it does mean, however, is that a more conscious understanding of how our psyche works mixed with a greater awareness of what unchecked competition can do can prevent us from heading down this dangerous path. Maybe it can help us actually indirectly build character.
I hope you enjoyed this look at self-esteem over the past few weeks. Before we wrap it up, I want to credit Alfie Cohn's book "No Contest" as the inspiration and source for much of this information. I'm sure I will continue to quote the book in future posts!
Winning has the potential to be an addiction. If we look to an alcoholic drink as something we need for a way to relax, or if we look to a snort of cocaine for a quick high, we can do the same thing when we look to winning as a way to feel good about ourselves.
The addiction to winning is probably most similar to the addiction to gambling. When we gamble, we never want to quit while we are ahead, nor do we ever think we can't win our money back when we lose. As our winnings increase, we keep rolling the dice. When we are down a significant amount, we think we are going to get on a role with the next hand of cards.
The same thing goes with winning. After we win, we want to win more. If we win a championship, we want to repeat, and we never want to walk away. If we lose, we get back out there to prove ourselves because we never give up. The cycle doesn't end.
Further, the more we reward being "number one," the more we contribute to the addiction of competition.
The problem continues when the pleasure from winning wears off faster and faster. We compete again and again searching for that thrill, only to be disappointed when we don't get it from another victory. We compare each championship to other championships and wonder why we are not as enthralled after gold medal.
The funny thing is that this phenomenon can happen in so many other places in life. I can remember walking out of a movie that absolutely blew me away to the point of obsession that the sequel was a disappointment because it didn't do the same thing to me that the first movie did. Is it fair to compare them that way? How can one movie compete with its own sequel?
Competition is a funny thing. Self-esteem should just be happy.
Remember playing "King of the Mountain" as a kid? If you never did, here's how it works: one person stands at the top of a large hill to defend it while other kids try to climb it and knock the kid at the top down the hill. Then, whoever knocks the kid down stands at the top and defends the territory like the original kid did. Frankly, it wouldn't be allowed today because it can get too physical, but you know there are kids playing it somewhere...
Competition is no different. When we reach the pinnacle of the mountain, there is always a target on our back. For teams that win championships, that target is known as "next year." The defending champions have a very small amount of time to enjoy their championship before they have to defend it. So our self-esteem might go up when we win, but it doesn't last long because we have to validate it again through the next competition.
Why, then, do we attach self-esteem to competition if we know that there will be a dip in it when the next season starts? Why do we allow our self-esteem to go up when we win if we know we have to defend it from going down again?
Beware of the media!
No, this isn't anything political. This is a wake-up call to how the media uses our self-esteem to play on how we receive stories in the business of making money.
How many times have you seen a movie where a character or a team had to overcome an obstacle or obstacles to find a victory? Have you noticed that the number of obstacles is directly related to how good you feel after the big climax in the plot? And how many of these situations revolve around a sports movie?
Most people find themselves rooting for the character(s) to succeed because they project themselves onto that group trying to overcome the odds to win the day. And perhaps that's the goal of the transaction of paying for entertainment: I give you $15 to go see a movie, and I want that movie to entertain me for two hours. But we should beware! This should not be a substitute or a model for our own lives.
Our self-esteem shouldn't correlate to a movie, whether it be due to our projection and investment into the plot or due to our demand for entertainment. Further, our demand for these movies should reveal how actual competition does not fulfill our needs.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.