Why do kids really enjoy competition? Author Hilary Levey Friedman, Dr. Julie Partridge, and Team USA trampoline athlete Tomás Minc provide insight.
As an aunt, guardian, and pseudo-mom, I’ve attended my share of kids’ sporting events. I’ve witnessed parents hit the emotional spectrum from anger to joy all in the span of a few seconds. To watch the stands and watch the aspiring athletes is almost equally entertaining at times. I have my moments where I find myself pacing the edge of the court at a 6th-grade basketball game yelling for the kids to have their hands up on defence.
I admit, I’m totally guilty of being that “parent” who is cheering slightly louder than the rest. Or the person that gets overjoyed when my loved one scores a point or makes a good pass. But in that post game moment, before that budding athlete wanders over for a high five, I have to remind myself to put it back into perspective from their point of view. To ask the real question, why do our kids continue to partake in competition?
“Making new friends from the USA and from around the world,” explained 13 year old gymnast and trampoline athlete, Tomás Minc. “Many of my competition friends are my best friends.” Tomás represented Team USA for the first time in November 2017 in Bulgaria at the World Age Group international trampoline competition and had a lot to say about training, friendships, and the big competition in general.
“When I walked on the floor about to compete there was a lot of cheering of my name and USA which I wasn’t used too but it felt really good.” Although the trampoline may appear to be an individual sport, by going in with a team of other Americans, he said that cheering for other athletes felt good because they weren’t competing just as individuals, but for the team as a whole. And this is true even for local club or school athletics—the comradery and friendships that come from the excitement and pressures of competition can build bonds that last well beyond the sport itself.
In Hilary Levey Friedman’s book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, she indicates that in spite of the competitive spirit, teammates are proud of one another’s accomplishments and often develop bonds that extend past their practice and tournaments.
Along the same vein, Dr. Julie Partridge explains in an article from the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), that the relationships that kids develop during sport can lead to a lot of different outcomes. For example, when kids feel accepted by their peers, they report higher levels of self-esteem, more enjoyment of activities and are less likely to want to avoid participating.
As a regular competitor, I asked Tomás if he had any words of wisdom for his fellow youth in regards to participation in competition and his response was perfect, “A piece of advice that I would give people is to never give up. If you fall off the trampoline in a competition don’t let that ruin you, and practice harder so that the next competition you won’t fall.”
“Despite the tears, the pressures, and the judges, girls and boys do find participation in their competitive activities fun. They enjoy being with their friends, and it is fun to win, fun to be at events, fun to win trophies, and fun to participate in the activities themselves.” -Hilary Levey Friedman
Reading what these industry professionals have to say about kids, friendships, and competition simply backs up the response I inevitably get everytime when I ask these kids about competition. They do it for fun and to hang out with their friends. After hearing this over and over again, I’ve learned that the first question I ask about their game was, “Did you have fun?” And win or lose, typically the answer will be a resounding YES!
Tomás Minc is an AlleyOOP Team sponsored athlete who competes nationally and internationally in Trampoline and represented Team USA in 2017 in Bulgaria. His goal is to compete in this years world competition in Russia in November. His qualification status is all based on his performance at the Winter Classic in February, the Elite Challenge in May, and most importantly at Nationals this summer. Support Tomás’s dream by donating to his GoFundMe. Learn more about what trampoline Tomás trains on at home in his backyard.
Dr. Julie Partridge is Asst. Professor, Dept. of Kinesiology, Southern Illinois University
Hilary Levey Friedman is the author of, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture