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Compete to Grow: Learning Through Competition

I love to share the experiences and emotions that my students feel when they play in a chess tournament. I know that on the inside they are scared, insecure, and nervous but that they also have courage, are eager to succeed, and independent. It is at this moment, the one where they are alone in front of the 64 squares, that they grow as people.

The competition, as long as it is healthy, can give our little ones lifelong learning:

  • Personal growth. We are not looking for world champions, but through sports and competition, we build personalities willing to overcome adversity, to seek different ways to be successful, to fight and resist when at a disadvantage but above all, to never give up.
  • Accepting defeat as part of the journey. To live and feel the emotions that arise before ”failure.” Feelings such as anger, helplessness, and frustration invade the mind of any athlete but with experience comes learning to not allow their emotions to win this mind game, and to know that overcoming failure transforms learning.
  • Motivation. The key to athletic success is the personal improvement within their own process without comparisons. The younger athletes are establishing their own short and long term goals that they achieve with effort, involvement, perseverance, and consistency. When they reach one of them they feel a great sense of satisfaction and self-realization.
  • Emotional literacy. Competition is emotional and a great number of feelings, thoughts, and emotions flourish in this scenario which would go unnoticed in our day to day life but that inevitably influence the experiences and decisions we are making. Taking advantage of this experience to show young athletes to be conscious of them, take note of them, control, and manage them will help them to become emotionally balanced and healthy people.
  • Friendship. During the competition we are rivals, but afterward, we are people. The respect of an adversary is a principle that we must always remember, which is why it is equally important to learn to win and lose.
  • What have you learned today?. Changing the focus of attention by shifting the result to the background is a way to enrich the competitive experience. It is important to remember that for our puzzle to fit perfectly it is necessary that each piece fulfills its function: parents are the emotional educators and the coach is the technician.

”Sports have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does…It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.” – Nelson Mandela

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