The Effects of Competition on Health: is Competition Necessary for Success

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What’s a place on earth where you can sit for 12 hours and compete strangers are willing to tell you their deepest, darkest secret? This past summer, I was in such a place when I flew to Seattle to visit my brother. I could only help but smell the stench of stale and chemically recycled air that squeezed between my mom and the passenger next to me. Half way through the flight I realized that my mom and I were surrounded by the Chicago Red Stars women’s soccer team! Sitting next to me was 25-year-old Katie Johnson, the Red Stars’ forward, she had Air pods and Nike sweats on as if she was sponsored by them. I decided to seize an opportunity to ask her about how she became a professional athlete and how to stay physically fit. She told me, “Stay true to yourself, focus on what you’re good at and improve on it. Practicing and even challenging my personal bests got me motivated to move.” I interpreted that what made Johnson so successful was that she always competes with herself and sets personal goals so that she would be able to focus on her own game and not her teammates. Thus, I took two lessons from that day: one, you can always find interesting people who are willing to give you advice when you have them cornered, and two: competitions, even with yourself, can drive you to staying healthy and motivated.

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After the airplane episode, I developed a mantra that represents Johnson’s message the best: “Reach for the stars, but land on the moon.” I interpret this as to always set goals that are higher than what I think my limits are, ensuring that even if I have small failures, I can still achieve huge success. One instance is in my volleyball playing. Last season, one of our team’s goals was to rank within the top 30 teams of Ontario by the end of the season. To accomplish this goal, I pushed myself in various ways, such as getting an LA Fitness membership, commit at least three times a week for practice, and up to four times for swim workouts. However, no matter what I did, I had to face the hard reality that two of my best players were still recovering from ACL surgery and were never going to make it to provincials, and that all the new players on my team were impressively terrible! It was extremely difficult to see how we could accomplish top 30, when half of my team couldn’t even pull through in a regular tournament. However, I decided to take action, and I told everyone to believe in themselves, to bump, block, set and hit the ball as best as they could and to just have fun on the court. My mentality for being one of the better teams around motivated me to be a loud, relentless and positive player. Suitably, not only was I the captain, but we walked away with bronze, ranked top 60 at the OVA Provincial Championships at Rim Park, and won silver at the Pittsburgh East Coast Championships. As a result, I am so proud of that team, who turned out to be terribly impressive. My volleyball experiences allowed me to be vulnerable to failure and in that came resiliency for the game, positivity, and motivation to reach for the stars high as I could.

Incorporating competition can maintain your physical health at any age. When I was young, my mom wanted me to explore as many sports and arts as I could: Chinese ballet, gymnastics, art, tennis, piano, and soccer are just some of the things she made me attend. However, swimming is the sport that I really connected with and has stuck with me to this day. I started competitive swimming at the age of 7, and when everyone was sleeping in, there I was at 7am, swimming laps on a Saturday morning. Although it was excruciating to wake up this early, it was the swim meets that made me physically fit and prepared to become a lifeguard and swim instructor. However, as we blossom into men and women there are tough challenges that we face: college, academic activities, living expenses, and working, students are as busy as a bee. According to one study, after high school there is 27% drop of vigorous exercise, and with that comes a risk of heart disease, type two diabetes and overall higher mortality rate (International Journal of Exercise Science). Consequently, lifeguards like me are seeing an increase of drowning deaths as the age goes up. According to Lifesaving BC, the highest annual rate come from young adults at 43, while the lowest rate from 5-14 at only 8 deaths (Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada). As we get older we forget that our health is just as important as our academics and this can cause chronic problems can affect your life. Thus, how do we solve this epidemic? Simple, we look back to why kids from 5-14 have such low death rates and how I stayed in shape for all these years by swimming: competition.

Try to enforce healthy competition. There may be some who say that competition puts too much stress on them, and the disappointment of failure is something they do not want to face. However, we need to promote constructive competition and how to react to our failures. For example, rather than focusing on not being top 30 in Ontario volleyball, I made sure to focus on beating my personal best and reaching as high as I could. I accessed my situation and make the most out of it. In addition, compete with yourself, in an article by Explore Parents, Dr. Timothy Gunn, Psy.D., says, “I believe that part of developing healthy competition is that children learn their most important competitor is their self” (Devan). Dr. Gunn’s point is that the best versions of ourselves is developed when we challenged ourselves. For example, as a swim instructor I challenge my students to always beat their whip kick time, even though most fail from exhaustion, they become better swimmers in the end. Thus, you need to challenge one self, use constrictive criticism to assess your situation and failures, and make the most out of them.

In conclusion, it is important to our mental and physical health to enforce constructive competition especially after high school. Find what your passionate about and set goals higher goals to challenge yourself. Environments such as Katie Johnson in her soccer team, my impressively terrible volleyball team, swimming meets and swimming lessons all stand by my mantra, reach for the stars, but land on the moon. They are all strive to be better and even though they may fail, they come rebounding back with higher self-esteem, positivity, improved health, and more motivation. So Reach. Reach as high as you can until your flight lands on the moon.

Works Cited

  1. Calestine, Jesse, et al. “College Student Work Habits Are Related to Physical Activity and Fitness.” International Journal of Exercise Science, Berkeley Electronic Press, 1 Nov. 2017,
  2. Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada. Canadian Drowning Report 2017 Edition. pp. 1–10, Canadian Drowning Report,
  3. McGuinness, Devan. “Why Competition Is Good for Kids (and How to Keep It That Way).” Explore Parents, 15 Jan. 2016,    

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