A couple of weeks ago the Spanish Supercup IX, a medium size BJJ competition, was hold nearby Madrid, Spain. And I was there. This time I was not there as an athlete nor as referee, organizer or coach. I was there as a mum. My daughters Gisele and Anais were entering the competition. And believe me, when your own kids compete, you experience a new level of excitement, fears and emotions.
As a gym owner, I always encourage my students to compete. It is good for our academy to be out there, make a name. Competitions, along with good results, are an excelent way to present your team to the outside world, to let the people know that we are here and that we are good at what we do. Competitions is one part more of the marketing strategy.
But also as a coach and competitor myself I encourage people to compete too! I always tell my students to try at least once. You don’t necessarily need to compete to be a good BJJ fighter but I believe, competing bring some benefits. It sharpens your game, you become technically, physically and mentally stronger, it expands your BJJ experience and actually, if you manage to control all this, it is also a lot of fun!… There are many reasons why I considere competing a good idea for adult athletes, but that is something that we can discuss in another article.
What I want to discuss here is, how do I feel and how do i think as a mum.
Why should kids compete? Is competition good or bad for them?
If you google it, you will find all kind of opinions. Opinions for and opinions against children competing in sports. Some of the articles I read enumerated a long list of all the bad things that competion can do to your son/daughter and point out competitions from being unhelpful to be even harmful.
Well, I don’t think that competition is bad. Actually, I don’t even think competition is good or bad, competition is what we make it to be. Depending on how we think about it and handle it, it can be good or bad. It is a double-edged sword. On the one side it promotes positive values under the right conditions but on the other side it can teach our kids the wrong lessons when the environment and/or conditions are not the right ones, for example, when parents/coaches associated it to the win-at-all cost mentality, when they push too hard, when parents project their own dreams on their kids or want to make them the next Olympian.
As a mother and also as a competitor, I try to set the positive enviroment for my kids and focus on the positive values. So here are my reasons why I think, competition is good for children:
- Competition teaches the kids to control emotions, excitement, fears and performance anxiety. Whenever we have to performance as a child, either in tests at the school, or in a theater play, or just a little harmless dance in front of your friends… it is normal to be excited, to feel all those butterflies in the stomach, to even feel scared of failure. Competition teaches how to deal with it. Excitement will not go away, even big stars are excited before their shows after years in the business, but you learn to cope with it and to use it to your advantage.
- Competition teaches kids that in most of the cases, hard work pays off. I love that one. My oldest daughter always ask me how is it possible that that singer sings so good or why an artist can paint so beautiful or why I can do maths good and fast while she has to struggle with each exercise. Practice and hard work, is what I always answer her. Hard work is what you will find behind the big mayority of sucessful people, even if they may be born with some qualities, you don’t make things happen but lying on the couch watching tv.
- But sometimes life is unfair and we need to learn to deal with things do not go our way. Sometimes you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as you wanted to. Kids learn resilience and determination in these moments.
And highly related, competition teaches to learn to win and lose with grace. Nobody likes a poser, and nobody likes a bad loser. As my wrestling and mental coach David says: to be sucessful, you must hate losing, and still be a good loser. But you also need to be a good winner. Competition gives kids the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment. With the help of good coaches and parents they learn to process them in healthy ways.
- Competition teaches respect. Respect your opponent, the referee. Even if you don’t like him/her, respecting each others is the basis of a society.
- Competition teaches to play by rules. Learn the rules AND develope tactic together with technique. You learn that you not only must be good at what you do, you have to play by certain rules and learn to use them to your advantage. Strategy and tactic is as important as technique.
- Competition can build self-esteem. You can not buy self-esteem in a shop for your kids. That is something that they have to earn it. Competition is one of many ways kids can earn self-esteem.
- Competition teaches commitment! Also a very important one for me as a mum. I don’t push my kids to do competitions, nor to do any of their other extra activities. When they ask me to get them in the ice-skating course or the piano lessons or whatever, i always try to support them. I have one condition though. I you really want it and I am going to spend my time, energy and money to support you, you have to stucked to it for the duration of the course and take it seriously. If after that time, you don’t like it, then you don’t need to keep doing it. But for me it is essential that 1) my kids distinguish wishes (what they really want to) from whims (what they feel like doing that certain day because it is trend, other kids do it, it is good to brag about..) and 2) my children learn commitment, setting goals and making a plan to reach them. Of course it can be also done outside of competition (and I do). But competition is a way to do it too.
- Competition teaches to take risks. What if something goes wrong… what if it goes right? I always teach my kids that you don’t lose anything by trying, in the worst case, you get experience, you learn a lesson. Once kids realize that competition is not a terrifying thing, they can take risks.
- Competition can be fun. Children enjoy games. They have fun playing them. I have seen many kids crying at competitions, but usually that is the part when they face their fears before performing or when they have to cope with their feelings after losing. And though this is a very important part of the competition, it is maximum 30 minutes long. The rest of the day, they are the happiest kids in the world, playing around with their team mates and making new friends. As a referee I see it all the time, and it is really beautiful, kids tend to become friends with their opponents and spend the rest of the day playing together. The enviroment is so healthy that you ever may wonder why not every parent support this.
- Competition teaches team spirit! It is beautiful to watch how kids of the same team support each other. How they chear up for them when they were fighting, celebrate their victories or comfort them in their losses.and gives kids another community. Being a part of team makes us feel like we belong. When you are part of a team, you are in a group of people who have interests and values similar to yours. Some of the best friends in life will come out from those communities.
- Competition presents opportunities to travel. Tournaments are often in other cities, some times even in other countries. Being part of a competitive team often gives kids an opportunity to visit places and interact with people that might not otherwise meet.
Beside those main reasons, there are several studies that show that competition causes kids to perform better in school, that is, students who play sport are less likely to drop out. And at the same time, i found other studies that show that competitions deters juvenile delinquency. So it can not be that bad after all 😛
If your kid want to compete, set the right enviroment and support him/her. Even when they lose, they are learning lots of important values.
Thanks Beyond the Sport for the wonderful pictures!