It was Summer School 1977 and it was my last hurrah before heading to High School. I was handed the baton for the final leg of the relay race. My team was solidly in 2nd place, far behind the leader, but the team behind us had Ron Schwab awaiting his chance to run me down and hunt down the leader. Now, Ron Schwab was a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Usain Bolt. He was strong, powerful, and fast and a member of our school football team - an imposing figure with every athletic credential. Me - I was a skinny guy who liked to play finesse basketball, so I did the only thing I could possibly do .... I ran! I ran away from Ron Schwab, feeling his presence behind me at every step. As I rounded the track for the final stretch, I was still holding off the barreling linebacker at my back and something strange happened. The team that was far away in first place was falling back to me and I somehow sprinted into the lead, held off my nemesis and threw the baton into the air as I crossed the finish line leading my team to victory in this small corner of Chula Vista. Nearly 40 years later, I still remember the effect that this physical challenge had on my performance. Needless to say without Ron Schwab...
I would have never run as fast as I did that day.
I would have never overcome the front runner to capture the victory.
I would have never benefited from the competition that made all of us reach new heights.
Most recently I have seen again the benefit that well designed competition does to improve the performance of an entire group. Some teachers at my school were sporting Fitbit trackers this January, booty from their Christmas feasts and/or possibly personal gifts to encourage New Year's commitments to health and wellness. They mentioned something about a challenge that I eagerly asked to join. "Why not join my colleagues and encourage one another to reach our goals?", I thought to myself. Before long we has nearly 20 staff members in a frenzy of physical activity, each trying to outdo one another in ... moving! Quickly, it became apparent that some of our mild mannered colleagues had fire in their belly and the competitive juices started to flow. Our cell phones were flooded with messages of goal attainment, encouragement, and a snarky comment from time to time. I started out on a little jog then got this notification.
I must admit my first inclination was to look behind me wondering where Amy was hiding. While some were worried that it was a little creepy to see who was moving and when at all hours of the day, the pros far outweighed the cons as our mutual commitment to healthy activity was making it harder to stay on the couch and waist away those promises we had made to our self. There were daily winners at the top of the leader board, but one and all reported that they had increased their personal accomplishments because of the public competition.
Today I came back from our District spelling Bee where we crowned champions from Grades K-6. Some would decry that competition leaves students anxious and unnerved, but I would argue that all of these students put in tremendous effort and determination to strive for the crown. No, not everyone finished at the top, but all of them learned valuable lessons and, no doubt, all became more familiar with words and literacy because of the competition.
So, thank you Camarena colleagues for spurring me on to better habits.
Thank you Ron Schwab for pushing me to strive for my very best.
Thank you competition for fostering growth, excellence, and effort toward achievement.
How are you incorporating healthy competition into your life, classroom, or school?