The sun rose like it did every Saturday, but Claire emerged from her room with an entirely new look in her eyes. Over the past ten weeks goals weren’t counted, and the mantra was “everyone wins”. (By the way, the goals were definitely counted by every parent on the sidelines.) This day was completely different. It was tournament time. Claire’s seven-year-old team, the Netherlands, would compete for the title. On this day, goals were going to be counted- wins and loses were going to be tallied.
The switch had been flipped. The early morning talk was different than the previous ten weeks. The focus wasn’t so much on the impending tournament. The focus was dialed in on one team – Argentina. Argentina was undefeated, and all the girls knew that they were the team to beat. (Remember, goals hadn’t been counted.) Claire’s resolve was fierce. She had already had conversations with her teammates at school, and they were all talking about beating this one specific team. Yes, they wanted to win the tournament. But more than that, they wanted to, no they had to, beat Argentina.
I sat on the sidelines and witnessed something powerful emerge. The intensity was at an entirely different level than what I had experienced over the previous ten weeks. Girls weren’t digging in the dirt as they waited for the ball to come to them. Simple distractions that had preoccupied their minds were now non existent. The team played together with a newly discovered resolve and tenacity. They went after every ball. When the ball was launched into their bodies knocking them down to the ground, they didn’t get back up with tears in their eyes. They jumped back up, shook it off, and took off after the ball. During drink breaks the talk was all about soccer and who they were going to beat. (Argentina was still the center of their conversations.)
What made such a dramatic change within them? What caused this switch to occur? What was the pivot?
They had something to play for. They had a reason to give their best. They had a clear objective to accomplish. Competition has an ability to bring out the best, and yes the worse, within people. We all know of competition’s dark-side. Just ask Lance Armstrong and every other athlete that has cheated to gain the competitive advantage. But competition, if harnessed in the appropriate manner, has the ability to get the best out of a person. Competition, if handled judiciously, elevates everyone on the team. Competition has the power to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.
Q: Who is your competition? A: Write down the top three people/organizations that you consider competition.
Q: What can you learn from your competition? A: Schedule time to sit down with your competition, build a relationship, and learn from them.
Q: What are your internal obstacles? A: Schedule intentional conversations with people and listen. Ask specific questions to uncover the obstacles.
(Are you wondering what happened at the tournament? Claire’s team didn’t win the tournament. They had a record of 1-1-2. Not good, but not bad. Here is the most important question to ask: How did they do against undefeated Argentina? The two ties were against, drumroll please, Argentina!)