Monday, March 31, 2014

Sore Winner

Cash & Dad’s Fifth Year and Three Quarters

I wish I could’ve seen it. For several years you were stuck on the sidelines watching your brother play soccer. Being too little to play left you competitively constipated.

With the starting whistle of your first “real” soccer match, you were a horse out of the gates. Pent up competitiveness rolled right over the opposing Maret Marauders. They never saw it coming. 

Score keeping is prohibited thanks to the numbing correctness of DC’s youth sports. I guess that’s why the Maret coach kept insisting the game was a "tie" after each River Rex goal, despite the mounting logjam of Rex goals (and rampant score tracking by players and parents alike).

The opposing coach’s bizarre scoring approach started grating on several parents, but your ever graceful mom and coach was tolerant. I would’ve pointed out that claiming a tie while getting your butt kicked is still score keeping ... with reality distortion. 

You felt the same way. By the tenth Rex goal, you’d had enough. You dropped to the ground smack in the middle of the field in an indignant tantrum about Maret “cheating”. Reminded of the practice of no score keeping, you pointed at the nets screaming about the goals you'd scored! The abstract idea of no scoring in a game whose sole goal is to score didn’t sit well with you. Most of the parents snickered and agreed. The whole no scoring thing is just weird. 

Perhaps its unhealthy, but pride swelled in my chest when Rachel told me. I fantasized running past the Maret coach and kicking the ball into the goal myself, hard, raising my hands in triumph screaming, "Goooaaaalll!" Fantasy is all I muster in this world of political correctness, but I suspect I'm not the only one.

So, your display of frustration resonates with me. Many institutions, from sports to schools, have damped competition to such a degree that it is actively discouraged, as if its a flaw. I get that balance is hugely important, but the pendulum feels like its swung too far. 

Perhaps its my history that shapes my intuition. Grangie tells a story about how I was an average student in elementary school until one day I learned that my friend, John Duncan, was getting straight “excellents” on his report card. Wham. My grades shot to perfection. Grangie says she unearthed, to her surprise, within her shy, skinny, under confident little boy was an intense little flame within. I was (and am) quietly but viciously competitive.

It makes we wonder. 

Its an accepted fact that elementary school boys lag girls in social, behavioral and academic skills. The gender gap has been growing over the years with boys lagging by 0.53 standard deviations by the end of fifth grade according to Third Way, a Washington research group. A lot is made of the gap between poor families and middle class families or the gap between black and white children, but this gap between girls and boys is considerably larger. 

Could it be that boys are wired for competition even at an early age? By making competition criminal, are we neutering a natural propellant for boys and learning? If competitiveness is woven into the fabric of being a male, and its treated negatively in our formulation of “social” or “behavioral” measurement, aren’t we instrumenting the system wrong? 

I think perhaps so … that is, until I arrive home at night to the war cries of sibling rivalry. 

How do I eradicate competition again?



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