Competition Motivates Athletes And The Rest Of Us

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a journalistic formation (radio journalism, to be specific) day hosted by the Fédération des Jeunes Francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (FJFNB).

This activity was part of a new initiative by the FJFNB and the Tree of Hope campaign called Racines de l’espoir (i.e. Roots of hope). The Racines de l’espoir initiative was started to encourage youth to embrace healthier habits. The journalistic formation day was the initiative’s second activity; its first activity was a video contest held earlier this year.

On the journalistic formation day, we (two program directors and three teens, including myself) traveled to Saint John, New Brunswick to interview the athletes who were participating in the Acadian Games being hosted there. I had the chance to interview Kelly Gibson, a twelve year-old mini handball player from the Madawaska Victoria region. What I learned from her was interesting.

Talking to Kelly made me realize that a competition can be a big source of motivation, even for young athletes. In fact, Kelly said that having the opportunity to attend the Acadian Games was what prompted her to become a member of her school’s mini handball team. This year was the first time Kelly participated at the Games, but not the first time she attempted to participate.

To attend the Acadian Games, a school’s team must compete and win against teams from other schools in its region. This requires plenty of training (Kelly’s team held practices at lunch hour in order to train) and perseverance. Last year, Kelly’s team didn’t make it to the Acadian Games despite many strong team members. This year, Kelly was able to attend the Games, but she must learn to play another sport to attend next year’s Games since an age limit will stop her from playing mini-handball.

I think dedication like Kelly’s and other althletes’ is something that is familiar to many of us. Although I’ve not played many competitive sports, I have participated in other competitive activities like Battle of the Books (a school club that reads books and competes with other clubs to see who retained the most information from the books) and band. I know from experience that competition can make seemingly tedious activities exhilarating and motivating. Too much competition might not be healthy–you don’t want to burnout or become depressed over a lost game or botched practice—but, in moderation, competition is a very useful tool.

A bit of creative competition with siblings could encourage the whole family to develop healthier habits. For example, competitions could be held to see which family member logs the most steps on a pedometer (a inexpensive device that counts how many steps are taken and that is often used to determine how active people are) and which family member eats the most balanced diet.

If you need encouragement to get working on your resolutions, competition may just do the trick.


Originally published in the Times & Transcript on July 17th, 2010.


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