Excellence versus success in athletics

Athletics are an inherently competitive phenomenon (because duh). To me, though, there is a way to be competitive and also supportive of other athletes and their successes. To me, athletes in any sport that maintain a positive attitude and focus on improving their own personal bests end up being better all-around athletes than those that get a nasty attitude when they lose or are eclipsed by a new, younger athlete in their sport. We all know the type of athletes I'm talking about.

 A friend on Facebook recently posted this link, which I thought had a ton of really excellent points about this issue. It points out (rightly, I would argue) that as an athletic society we "make cuts and select all-star teams at younger and younger ages, making youth sports an elitist undertaking for early developers and those with the financial means to participate". It also says that we "teach and coach strategies that provide short-term results at the expense of long-term development". These are so absolutely true.

This is why we see such huge attrition between Group B (ages 13-14) and Group A (ages 15-16) in youth climbing circuits. B is a tough group. Some kids shoot up quickly and are essentially the size of full-grown adults by the time they're 14, while others lag behind and don't go through their growth spurts until they are much older. Many kids drop out of the sport at this age because competition is so stiff, and they start losing. Others, however, hang on because they know how the sport works, they love the sport more than they love winning and they keep a positive, constructive attitude toward loss. They take it as a learning experience and keep working on their own personal skill set and they don't focus on the fact that they lost at whatever level they lost at. And those are the climbers, later down the line, that succeed in the sport.

Obviously I am going to come at this from a climber's perspective. I am always hearing climbers (primarily young climbers) bemoaning the fact that they are having a bad climbing day, they can't send anything, and that they're frustrated over it. I call these "high gravity days", because in our sport sometimes you're just going to have a bad day. I try to refocus them on what they're working on - "But how did you climb yesterday? Do you love your project? Are you having fun? Do you love climbing?" and most of them will grin and say "Yeah. I love it." Because at the end of the day, particularly when you participate in a slow-growth sport such as climbing that requires a great deal of perseverance, that is what is most important.

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