No Contest: the War on Competition

The world's most widely—viewed sporting event will take place tomorrow in Germany, as Italy and France compete for soccer's World Cup. Athletic competition comes naturally to all children, and as adults we love to vicariously participate. Yet there are some who regard this impulse as insidious or even harmful to the young of our species.

In a recent story on CBS Evening News titled "Score, No More", a children's soccer league in suburban Boston was profiled as an example of a new type of approach to coaching. As the title suggests, scores are no longer tallied, hence there are no winners or losers; what is important, however, according to the parents and the child psychologist interviewed, is that the children improve their skills and that they feel better about themselves.

Later, as they mature (the children in this story were between the ages of seven to ten) they will be taught the importance of competition. That this is occurring in Massachusetts is not surprising. That it is representative of new type of coaching occurring throughout the country is not surprising either. It is only another form of Marxist philosophy being pushed by the Left and repackaged via children's sports. The intellectual roots of this movement are found in the writings of Alfie Kohn, who has railed against all competition for many years.

Competition is inherent in human nature. We are born with the natural desire to compete and to win. Having coached a neighborhood children's league in Baltimore, I know and have seen first hand this desire in the children. Fair play and skills were emphasized; however, the children were always concerned about winning. They always asked what the score was. To banish, until a later age (and what age is appropriate?), the idea of competition and winning is incorrect coaching and does not offer any incentives for the children to improve their skills.

The oft—remarked 'Winning is not important, but fair play is' affects in a negative manner the attitude of a child in sports and an adult in life in general. Why seek fair play without seeking victory? It is competition and the ambition to win that forms character and creates a better and more productive society. Of course there are rules and these rules must be obeyed. But competition, which occurs in life everyday, teaches endurance and strength, and influences imaginative thinking so that one can be more creative, thus seeking new ways to achieve success, and hard work, complimented by success contributes to one's character.

'Winning is not important, but fair play is' has no place in a competitive society such as ours because it is Marxist and inculcates the false credo that all are equal in skills, talents, virtues, etc., and that anyone who tries to win is breaking the community's rules. These strictures are really an inhibition on individuality and go against our nature, and against the truth that each person is created with the natural ability and talent to pursue the best life he possibly can.

One can easily look back on the Soviet Union to see the consequences of such teaching. Hard work never paid off and people were stifled from achieving their full potential; thus a society that imploded, and the only alternative was to commit crime to achieve rewards that one was not allowed to achieve lawfully. It is an attack on human individualism and exceptionalism.

Teaching a child that scores do not matter will have a dramatic effect on his or her outlook on and participation in society as he or she matures, even after that child is then taught that it is permissible to win. From an early age, the child has been coached to limit himself. He will not have the desire and strength and character to pursue fully what he would like to pursue and to better himself and his circumstances.

This will occur in sports, in academics and in any other area of life. He will always suffer from a certain mental conflict. When he sees others winning, he will think it is unfair. He will always carry a guilt inside of him that he is acting selfishly and will not strive to overcome and surpass others. He will not be as productive as he is able to be. Thus he will continue to limit himself and productivity will decrease. Thus also laziness and boredom. Thus, an uncreative individual in an uncreative community in an uncreative society. From here, it is expected that the government will enter to do what the private sector should have been doing, being creative and productive.

This new approach to coaching is attractive for another reason, specifically, the ego of the parents and the coaches. No one wants to drive home after a game knowing that his or her child did not win, is a loser in a specific sport and may not be gifted enough to continue in it. No one wants to face the hard and necessary task of consoling a child who desired to win.

This feel—good philosophy is both bad parenting and bad coaching. It encourages both the parents and coaches to shirk their responsibility to raise morally strong and competitive children to participate in a society that will demand these skills. Also, it encourages less time to be spent with the children. If all one has to do is explain a skill and illustrate it, and should the child immediately become proficient at it or not, the coach or the parent will then think his or her work has been done for the day and will not take the time to explain why such a skill must be practiced and improved upon.

There is also the lack of teaching the values of success and failure. Because success is not easily achieved, the preference is to achieve a lesser standard. Also, because there is guilt about success while others in society fail, especially if one is not a member of a minority group, (and if one is not a member of a minority group, his success may be sneered upon and even seen as criminal behavior), this feel—good compromise is adopted to ensure that everyone is included in the all—around elation and if there are rewards, all will receive one. And when that child goes out and interacts with other children in sports or fun, he will be timid.

Soccer, like all other sports, is by nature one in which the athletes strive to succeed. That is how one weeds outs the good from the bad players, as in society. And there is the interplay between the individual expression of each player and his responsibility to the team for its success, which is the naturally desired ambition. No matter how the coaches and parents in this league try to dissuade them from this fact, the young girls in the story know it inherently.

When the children featured in the CBS News story were asked if there was a winner and a loser, they replied that yes, there was, and that their team was badly beaten.

Nigel Assam lives in Baltimore.