Competition LO18017

Ben Compton (
Thu, 07 May 1998 17:10:58 -0500

Replying to LO18004 --

I read and enjoyed Rol's comment on his friend who is a cycling
enthusiast. As a teenager I dreamed of riding on the US Olympic Cycling
Team. I have spent hundreds of hours riding my bike for training and in
competitions. I began when I was 10 yrs old, and trained mostly on my own.
By the time I was 13 I had found a riding partner, and he and I rode
together for seven years. I never made it on the Olympic Team, but I can
say that my performance increased when I rode with someone else (not to
mention it made the 120 mile rides much more entertaining!).

Now to change my thoughts a bit. . .

I think there are different types of competition. On the extreme there is
the type of competition that leads nations to war. World War II is proof
that cooperation is not always possible, or even a good choice. The
British under Chamberlain were very good about cooperating with Hitler,
right up to the point that it threatened their own survival. The US closed
it's eyes, and pretended like nothing was happening. You could say, in a
way, that the US and the British were cooperating with their own
destruction (a point I have tried to make numerous times!).

This type of competition is a win/lose scenario. It _does_ hurt people!

Then there is competition between businesses, such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola,
IBM and Microsoft, Ford and Chrysler. This type of competition isn't so
much of a win/lose situation, as it constantly inspires the competitors to
improve their business. The refusal to improve would clearly cause a loss,
but that isn't a choice most companies consciously make. They may not know
_what_ to improve, but they do have the desire to improve.

Then there is the competition that takes place inside an organization.
This type of competition can lead to a win/win situation, or it could
backfire and create a win/lose situation. Let me give an example. . .

In my early 20's I started playing basketball after work with a colleague
and his friends. They had all played at the NCAA level, but had not made
it in the NBA. They were tall (6' 2" or taller), fast, and had years of
experience behind them. I grew up playing football and baseball, but I
never really played basketball. So I wasn't very good. I was also much
shorter than everyone else, standing 5' 9".

When we played I spent the first three months running up and down the
court, watching the ball fly around me but I rarely got to touch the ball.
I was getting in good shape, but my skills weren't improving. My colleague
decided he's start playing me a game of one-on-one after we had played as
teams and help me learn some basic strategy and skills.

The first game he beat me hands down, 21 to 1 (we played to 21 by one). He
suggested that I could benefit from learning to dribble the ball better,
so I started walking to work and dribbling a basketball the whole way.
This helped immensely.

He also invited me to lift weights with him on the days we didn't play.
Instead of building bulk, which is what I had done most of my life, we
focused on building endurance and speed (low weight, high repititions).

At the end of six months I was scoring on average 15 points per game when
I played my colleague one-on-one. I was also running faster and jumping
much higher.

I learned to shoot three pointers; I learned to read the offense and
defend it better; I learned to position myself better; pass the ball

I had set it as my goal, at one point, to touch the rim of the basket and
to score more than 10 points in a game. It was tough going, but three
times I week I played with my team and then followed it up with a
one-on-one competition; I was in the weight room three days a week
building my strength and my endurance.

After more than a year of this I was in a game, and one the guys on the
other team lost the defender and headed for the basket. I saw it out of
the corner of my eye, and I knew he'd slam-dunk the ball. So I dropped off
my man, and came up behind him. When he brought the ball behind his head
for a double-handed dunk, I stripped it. Immediately I turned around, and
took off down the court, running full speed and dribbling (with a great
degree of confidence, I might add!). I was doing a lay up, and as I went
airborne I felt my wrist hit the rim of the basket. I was higher then I
expected and so the ball bounced off the rim and fell to the ground, but I
didn't care. I touched the rim, which was one of my goals (and an
accomplishment in it's own right for a guy who stands 5' 9").

When I hit the ground I felt a cold chill shoot down my spine, and the
hair on my head felt like it was standing straight up.

That game I scored 15 points, and I touched the rim! Both goals were met.
And the frosting on the cake was that my team won the game!

I don't see the competition between me and my colleague as a win/lose
situation (although I still have never beat him in a one-on-one game).
Rather I see it as a wonderful form of cooperation, that lead to increased
competitiveness in a different context.

Ben Compton

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