These blogs are intented to be thoughts by me on topics mainly geared towards Basketball, Teaching and Leadership. If you don't agree with what I think, then express yourself or move on.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Competitive Spirit

What does it mean "to be competitive?" Where does the trait come from? Is it something a person is born with or can it be something developed like learning how to ride a bike?  When we see images such as the ones I've posted, one immediately concludes these guys are very competitive.  But really, what you see here is the reactive response to an outside stimuli.  Where it comes from is what I want to talk about in this blog entry.

On a chemical stand point, research has shown that high testosterone and low serotonin will result in a person being assertive, aggressive and thus competitive (Foundations in Neuroscience (2002), John T. Cacioppo- just to name one of many studies).  So coming back to the images.  In any competitive circle, these images show up regularly.  And they are prompted when a negative stimuli has been experienced.  Notice I did not put any images of "happy" reactions.  There's a reason for that and my point surrounds that reason.  You see, when success takes place, something else happens in the brain (dopamine release) which encourages the person to continue.  But what about when you fail!?  When you mess up a play?  When you get subbed out and you know it will be a while before you get back in the game?  What makes you come back for more? What makes you stay focused?  It's the Competitive Spirit.  It's not chemicals, it's not DNA and it's not mom and dad making you come back (although they have a large role to play in your Competitive Spirit development).

A Competitive Spirit is ambition.  It's a passionate and relentless pursuit toward a difficult goal.  It's a deep understanding that many failures will take place before a significant succeed happens (notice I said significant) and you are perfectly ok with that reality.  It's a deep understanding that persistence, determination, frustration and pain are four good friends.  The desire to do well at whatever you are doing, regardless if you want to be doing it or not, is the platform upon which one develops the Competitive Spirit.  It always starts with the person.  It's a choice!  Are people more incline to be extra competitive?  Sure!  That's where the Nature vs Nurture debate comes up.  But my stance is nurture has a far more important role to play.  If done correctly, an individual will take any sort of mistake or failure very personally (i.e. the images).  But they will immediately get back at trying to succeed again.  Being competitive has absolutely nothing to do with winning or losing.  But everything to do with the journey do succeed.  And then want more....and more.....and more.

One of my biggest pet peeves (and I have a couple hundred of them) is hearing someone say: "I hate losing!"  Well no sh*% you hate losing.  Nobody likes to lose.  How competitive are you?  Is it going to happen again?  Yes it will.  Is it going to happen the same way.  It better not!  And that is the Competitive Spirit.

I tell my teams all the time.  "Ok, we've lost a game.  Good teams don't lose two in a row!"  What I am trying to do with that line is tap into the Competitive Spirit.  It is rare that I see a mature aged player "get it".  But for high school players, it is the perfect time to teach them to have a Competitive Spirit. Get after it! Figure out what went wrong and eliminate that weakness.  Study your opponent more and find that detail that will give you an advantage.  Keep chasing for that win!  Live every aspect of your life that way!

My two cents on the topic. Comment away folks.