Can Competition Actually Be Harmful?

By M Zammit


  Playing hockey on the streets of Toronto was without doubt the highlight of my earliest childhood memories. I grew up a devoted Toronto Maple Leafs fan and the sport will forever be engrained in my heart. Yet my journey to help bring goodness to humanity conflicts with this love of the sport because in essence, competition is the cause of a great deal of what ails humanity. Its negative effects include everything from temptation over power or possessions to selfishness, jealousy and stress. And we have all experienced the detrimental effects of these mindsets at some point in our lives.

  I am very passionate about my journey toward goodness, yet I still love to watch and play sports. So, how can I reconcile these potentially competing loves? Should I cut my ties to competition altogether? No. I do see the ugly side of competition, but there is also good there. The key, as always, is in being aware.

  First, let’s focus on the good. Watching the 2014 Olympic Games, I was elated to see the respect countries showed one another. There was empathy for those who didn't make the podium and genuine applause for other countries’ victories. I saw handshakes and hugs and at the end a common sadness when the athletes headed home after the closing ceremonies. Why? Because at our core we are loving and on the grand scale we really are one people!

  Competition through sport can teach us something more valuable than the satisfaction of winning! Competition can teach us empathy, gratitude, grace, respect, good sense, kindness, and I have to add many life long friendships have been made through sport. But the line can be fine.

Some of the ill-effects I witness among athletes, coaches and fans at all levels are needless displays of poor sportsmanship, despair and anger. It's common to overlook the effects of these emotions which can have dire consequences! For example, nobody feels good when they're angry. You don't hear people say "oh I totally lost my temper yesterday – I feel great!”  

  Unlike so many people today who put great faith in doctors, pills and vitamins, I am in awe of the most magnificent machine known to humanity: the human body! It's exhilarating to see the skill and energy we possess and it's a blessing to watch gifted athletes amaze for our enjoyment. We have incredible coordination, split second reaction timing and mental focus that can quiet the mind during the most intense moments! What we are capable of is extraordinary.

  So for those who question whether competition should be completely eliminated from humanity, remember that there is goodness to be had. But also remember that there really is a fine line between respectful competition, having fun and being grateful, to the spoiled side of selfishness, intimidation, boasting, separation and anger. It really boils down to one word: sportsmanship - an awareness of sportsmanship.

  A good sport is so much more appealing than a poor sport. A good sport reflects well, while a poor sport makes a fool of him or herself and ultimately reflects badly on everyone!  At the end of the day, the enjoyment we get from sports should be exactly that - enjoyment! In that way, we are setting good examples for our children and everyone comes out a winner!