Monday, March 24, 2014

The Difference btw Sports & War: The Competition Dilemma

During our last Team France Training, we were confronted to a general atmosphere of competition within our very group which led to feelings of suspicion, jealousy and covetousness, in contradiction to the team bonding we had achieved, and against own will.
I observed it with an outside eye and the situation didn't affect me, because I felt apart from the group due to my injury--and thus not really concerned, and also because I had already settled my competition dilemma a while ago, in my two previous lives, as a dancer and as a freestyler.
Yet, that situation gave me food for thought as my previous experiences were in a context of individual and creative sports, i.e. the opposite of derby, a performance and team sport. In derby, two different types of competition should be highlighted:
  1. competition with opposing teams on games, etc. but also
  2. competition with individual team mates within teams.


To keep it VERY simple, and whatever the context, I would define those two notions as such:
  • Bad competition is about domination by crushing.
  • Good competition is about exploiting your potential to the max.
The person you have to surpass is yourself. Not because you are your own enemy but because YOU ARE YOUR OWN NORM and in order to evolve, you should pass that bar and set it higher. For your personal rising.


In freestyle, my No.1 goal in a competition was to do a successful performance to get a nice video of my run(s), and my No.2 goal, THE CHERRY ON TOP stemming from the quality of it, was the ranking. I'd rather not win but show a kickass performance, than win with a poor performance just because I failed less than the others.
It might be a state of mind that you tend to develop in creative sports simply because, as fair as the judging and rules may be, there is always a part of subjectivity and non-countable elements which can make a ranking debatable, because some judges would reward or penalize some aspects more than others etc., so that you may learn to value your personal sensations--and satisfaction as a result, more than outside opinions and/or facts... (?)
Credit: Insane Motion, 2014.

In derby, my goals are unchanged: my No.1 goal is to do successful actions, both individually and with/for the team. The more cool actions, the better the game. Which is already a victory in itself.
Of course, winning is more pleasant than losing, but I can lose a game with the sensation of having won it, and conversely, depending on the quality of my game, my team's game, and the opposing team's shape.

Again, winning is a cool factor but not a decisive one for me.
That doesn't make me any less competitive.


However, it would be too simple with just that inner parameter. The trick is that ALONE, YOU ARE NOTHING. And this is a general statement. You cannot just live in self-sufficiency. You exist through others and can only truly evolve by interaction and COMPARISON TO OTHERS.
Comparison is natural and essential, but it can become toxic if you end up seeing your challengers as your enemies.
Especially within a team where you can only succeed through unity.
But also (that's my two cents) regarding the opposing team on a competition: I don't see what good can result of bad emotions and behaviors.

This is not war. This is not about destruction.
This is SPORTS. This is about ELEVATION.
And climbing on ruins won't get you far. 

Note: Comparison is all the more tricky and deceptive as we are all different. Mindset, experience, body type... The mere task of finding somebody to compare yourself with is not easy, especially in derby where all body types are wanted and needed, and where positions in play become more and more specific as the discipline evolves...
If you find somebody you can compare yourself with, take good care of them: they are a golden source of exchange, just like you are for them. You are more likely to understand each other as for sensations, ideas, points of view... And it is not incompatible with any (positive/healthy/respectful) challenge! 

Credit: Chris Pers, 2010.

Before derby, I had never taken part in team sports so that I wondered how I would position myself as for competitive behavior within a team. But thinking it over, I realized that I was already applying that 'team care' attitude in Freestyle by mixing and befriending with opponents. In individual sports, you are your own team of one. The only option to have a social life is to share with your challengers. By extension, you are part of one giga-team.
Sharing with other freestylers was (and still is) essential for everyone to evolve: tips and tricks exchanged--by discussion or observation, made you a better skater... and made the other part of the deal, your 'opponent', better too... which enabled you to exchange again, and fight higher, and get closer to your own ideal and fulfillment. The sharers survived and thrived, the greedy disappeared.

I believe that such a sharing behavior takes on its full meaning for emerging sports, like freestyle and derby, sports that are still at a stage of rules/theory shaping according to the evolutions of their practices: grey areas and possibilities are still being discovered and tested. In those special cases, the more open you are, the faster your sport will grow.
In derby, sharing can be reflected in many levels: with your team mates during training, with strangers while leading or attending bootcamps, with opponents before/during/after games through observation and/or conversation, etc.


I do understand though, that in times of threat against your own person -- because a game is tight, because team selections are imminent, etc. -- your survival instinct resurfaces and you wish you were the last one standing. That's human.
It's tempting to think 'I wish she broke her leg / caught pneumonia' and other nice things. But then let's imagine she does*: you win/make it and...
You didn't earn it, you didn't learn anything from it.
No merit, no experience.

* Or more daring: you force the hand of destiny in breaking (mentally, physically) your opponent.
Note: this is VERY mean and unethical.


I concede though, that at that point you may get a kind of selfish satisfaction for having avoided all the drawbacks of losing, e.g. 'shame' and 'deception'...
But you also avoid the ADVANTAGES OF LOSING, e.g. taking stock, learning from better than you (stronger, smarter, more focused, fitter, etc.), wanting to surpass yourself even more, etc.

And last but not least, every cloud has its silver lining: THERE ARE DRAWBACKS TO WINNING TOO! Here is the main one:
What goes up must come down... 
(You get the idea.) Once you're up there, you become a leading example as well as the fall girl/team, which is as much flattering and empowering as it is uncomfortable and demanding.

The aim is not to give lessons nor to point my finger at anyone. I could develop further, but I just wanted to give an overview of my vision of competitivity and of how I handle competition. I am not basing myself on any theory although I realized that I was close to some. I built the theoretical way I wanted to experience competition, generally speaking, when I could not afford just to go with the flow of emotions anymore. I am glad that most of the time I naturally follow that line of conduct, which brings me serenity and strength, and spares me a lot of pressure and hard feelings, I guess.
As a conclusion, competition doesn't have to be a destructive experience (for yourself or the others) -- and shouldn't be (but that's a subjective comment), there are constructive ways to approach it.