Competition: The Driving Motivation in Sports

You are losing the game by six points, and your team is about to score. You are the right-guard, on the line of scrimmage, and have seven guys lined up in right across from your face. It is fourth and goal, on the 1 yard-line. The player in front of you wants to tear your head off because he has been practicing and training for that all off-season. The guy to right of him knows he has to tackle the ball carrier and the only way to the ball is through your chest. And all 11 players on the other team have one common goal in mind, and it is not just to stop you from scoring a touchdown, but it is to win the game. And while the goal may be in mind, it is the effort, the preparation, and the drive to win that results in actual success. But how does the right-guard on the line of scrimmage manage to do his job, and accomplish his goal when there are so many people go against him, trying to do the same thing to him, that he is trying to do to their team? Or better yet, why is he not able to do his job, tear the other person’s head off, and pave the way to win the game? In sports, where, ideologically, the only goal is to win, what motivates a person to believe he or she is going to succeed over another, and how does he or she get it done?

Competition is “the act of competing, as for profit or a prize.”[1] It is “a test of skill or abilityâÂ?¦rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same marketâÂ?¦[and] the simultaneous demand by two or more organisms for limited environmental resources.”1 In sports, the organisms are players, and the limited resources are a single victory, where one can only be achieved by out-competing your competition. Yes, sports can be played without the desire to win. But forget about the charity boxing matches, and the little league baseball games where no one keeps the score, in competitive sports, rivalry inspires players to prepare themselves to do things that the human mind never thought possible. However, what is it that causes competition in sports? When the game of basketball was invented it was just an activity “To keep young men occupied during the long New England winters.”[2] What was it that made people all of a sudden desire to put the ball through the basket more than anyone else? What made sports a professional occupation that is driven by wins and losses?

Many people are inspired to compete for profit or prize, while some revel in the spirit of competition itself because of whatever personal feeling an individual receives when they win, or what meaning the profit or prize has for them. Different people go about competing in different ways, in different arenas, and with different focal points along the way, but in the end, the goal of competition is always to win, and the difference between winning and losing is having the drive to succeed at any cost. The competitors desire to win at any cost is inspired by the results that only winning can give them. Second place is a long way from first, and there are very few people who compete on the daily basis that would ever aspire to just finish in second. Second place does not have the same feeling as when you win, even if your individual thoughts on winning are different from somebody else’s, it is hard to imagine anyone showing or experiencing more sensation, more emotion for finishing in second place than they would had they finished in first. This is because, in sports, first place means you are a better competitor than everyone else that went against you in that venue. But what makes someone “better” than someone else? Are they actually a better specific sports player, athlete, or human being? While either of those options could contribute to a person winning over another, there are a number of other things, such as; preparation, dedication, and will that can turn people with limited athleticism into great competitors and winners.

Competition in competitive sports has been studied rather inconsistently in sociology. While there are many sociologists who have contributed to the study of sports, the majority of pieces on sports and sociology has dealt with how sports effects society and the individual. Sport sociology has been said not have “yet reached the paradigm stage of scientific development.”[3] Those who have participated in the studying of the sociology of sports, and not just sports within society, have offered inspiring information on how teams and individuals exist and behave in a manifested society where competition is everything. Jeffrey H. Goldstein is social psychologist who has edited “Sports, Games and Play,” and “Outcomes in professional team sports: chance, skill and situational factors,” which deals with the how elements of talent and drive incorporate into situational sports. One of the chapters discusses experiments Goldstein performed to test how primary and secondary involvement in sports influences the outcome of contests, and why sports has generated such high popularity in civilization. RobertJ.Kelly’s “Toward a Theory of Competition + Cooperation in Sports As an Indicator of Change in American Life”[4] is another sociological analysis of sports that has a more focused position on competition. He sites competition as being one the two main underlying essences of sports (the other being cooperation). “âÂ?¦The mainspring of competitive sports is, of course, competition.”[5] One of the main objectives in Kelly’s piece is to analyze the reason for football’s popularity expansion over baseball’s past superiority. He notes how the intricacies of football lead to more areas of competition within the same game and is the reason for its increasing popularity levels. Other texts on sports by sociologists often take into account sociological aspects of sports and their relationship to society, and use those relationships as the focus of their content. However, sports writers, who may not hold the title of sociologist but are sociologists of sport because they are studying human behavior in a very popular institution. Many sports writers have commented on the idea of competition and competitiveness, and have studied and researched it to the point where they believe they can predict the future of an athlete’s athletic career. Mel Kiper, a draft analyst for ESPN, often uses interviews and tests with collegiate players to examine the extent of an individual’s capacity for the comprehension sports and quick thinking. While it is not an exact science, there are strong correlations to the success of athletes and Mel Kiper’s assessment of their athletic-intellectual capacity.

In this work, the definition of competition in sports will be explored to an extent that reveals its place in the realms of social behavior. The inspiration for society and its ability to drive sports to a level of sophistication that has made it a true institution in society. And in exploring the effects of competition on sports, one must examine the effects of competition on the competitor. Upon answering questions of what types of competitors are there, and which type is most likely to succeed over the other, the use of a popular champion determining sports mechanism, or a playoff, will give insight as to which types of competitors fair better in sports competition. Distinctions such as practice habits, repetition, and intellectual capacity will be used to provide a winner of the playoff and how that person fairs in sports and society as a whole.

II. Basis for Analysis

By definition, the sociology of sports is an “analysis of a social institution [sports] or societal segment as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole.”[6] The more unempirical definition, and the one most sportswriters and sociologists of sports would agree upon, is that the sociology of sports is the analysis of people behave in a competitive institution prided on winning and physical capabilities. This is why the goal of this analysis on competition is to study the relationship between competition and the competitor. However, in this analysis you will find no analyzing of data from a database on competition because one does not exist. This is because there is no measure of competitive nature. As you know, with many people it is easy to say whether or not somebody embodies the competitive spirit more than the next because competition can be seen in people’s daily actions, from trying to turn in the best business or school assignment to beating your co-worker to the last donut on the breakfast cart. Even though the competitive spirit can be seen, an individual’s competitive level cannot be determined to be 3.5 times more than another individual’s. Occupational prestige is deciphered, a group of people (usually in work force) gauge their opinions on how honorable a person’s job is in relation to others, and while the results of that job (money, social influence, possessions) can be measured and calculated, and are used in making the opinion, occupational prestige is still an immeasurable, comparative, opinion. Competition is very much like occupational prestige because it is opinion based, and even though you can see it in some people more than others, it is not a quantifiable science. Because of this fact, the data that will be used in the analysis of competition and sports will rely on a number of those measurable factors than can be used to qualitatively explain competition, such as wins and losses, competitive awards and championships. Empirical evidence, such as; interviews, questionnaires and observations were conducted in order to gather opinions on this issue. And because competition is like occupational prestige, the opinions of sportswriters and athletes will be used to develop any overarching themes and trends, because those separated from the field of sports are less likely to have a higher understanding of it. As mentioned before, sportswriters are the present-day sports sociologists and their opinions are often more objective than that of athletes because their opinions and findings are the results of hours and hours put forth into their professions, which is why their articles and analyses will serve as important sources for analyzing competition. Athletes themselves are more likely to be more subjective in their analysis of sports and competition because they have experienced so much of it in their lives and their numerous experiences are too numerous to not include in their discussion of sports. However, their experience in the actual field of play provides a level of accuracy and relativity that often results in the display of common themes in their analysis of sports.

III. The Sociology of Sport

Sociology is the study of social human behavior, and sport is the transition of natural human behavior to an altered form. Thus making the study of sports through sociological perspective extremely important in understanding how institutions alter societies and put social facts into place. Sociologist have copiously studied the effects of religion, education, mass groups, and government on civilization because those institutions change the human experience and manipulate how human beings comport themselves. But if you have attended a competitive sports competition, you will see how a swing of the bat can make two people hug, how a touchdown can cause athletes to cry, how breaking a new record can bring thousands to their feet, and how a rivalry game can put different regions at each other’s throats. Achieving something personally rewarding in education or government can take weeks, months, or even years, to bring about some of the displays of exuberance and emotion that has been generated by sports in 1 or 2 hours. Thus, not connecting sociology with an institution of society that has the instantaneous influence on human behavior that sports has would be unfortunate and erroneous.

Organizational study is a branch of sociology that studies organizations and their methods of functioning as a business or activity. Sports, especially team sports, involve group dynamics because individual players are required to act and behave in a manner that is connected with the behaviors and goals of their team. The objective of team sports is to suppress any inclinations to individualize one’s self, and to advocate that teammates should identify with one universal goal, winning. In theory, the ideal team would possess organic solidarity; thus, the team would obtain a sense of shared aims and a commonality that would be the result of each member’s dependency on the others. In a team situation, everyone has responsibilities, no one person can perform all of the team’s goals at once, so each member of the team must trust that the others will do their part.[7] Many coaches in professional sports have advanced degrees in sociology, which is why some experts believe the theory of “team” has changed over the last couple of years with influx of sociology into athletic world. Organizational studies also have been used in sports in order to demonstrate how different attitudes and behaviors can come about when people are urged to conform to a unified identity. Organizational-behavioral studies have tried explaining, predicting, and then controlling, some teams’ possible problems with the group dynamics. Many teams such as the L.A. Lakers and several collegiate athletics teams have employed the expert analysis of organizational sociologist on how to develop a group dynamic that best exhibits the spirit of competition. Some coaches who employ the use of organizational behavior (or OB), have been accused of being too dictatorial because of OB’s tendency to be used as a tool to manage and exploit people in an inhuman fashion.

III. Hypotheses

What inspires competition? Indeed there are a multitude of reasons for the action of competition, with different people having different reasons for each of their different competitive endeavors. However, to ask what inspires competition in sports whittles the field of possible reasons down substantially. As aforementioned, the pursuit of a prize is at the forefront of competitive spirit in sports. From the collegiate level and below, that prize is in the form of a championship. Whether it is winning your conference, your league, or being the champion of all the colleges in the nation, the competitive spirit that drives young athletes to train in the sweltering heat of the summer stems from a desire to be a champion. This too is the overarching theme of professional sports. The most successful and the ones deemed most competitive are the players and coaches who have been champions of their sports. Often, even the most competitive and athletic players are knocked for their lack of championships. Sports analysts and enthusiasts view championships to be essential to the measuring of one’s competitive spirit because it is the highest gauge for which the sports world can evaluate the competitive spirit. conversely, the professional level of sports also has added incentives for those who exhibit their abilities to be the best competitor. The players who prove to be the best athletic performers at what they do have utilized the 21st century to turn high competitive spirit into power, fame and fortune. But despite the effect of money on professional sports, competition still drives sports, because the way professional athletic associations have set up their businesses, the players that compete at the highest level of performance are the one’s that receive most benefits.

Letting competitors play out their competitive spirit in the field of play provides the sports world an indubitable method of determining success that is unparalleled in most other institutions of the world. The reason other institutions cannot deem a champion in such an easy manner is because competitors in the same institution have different ways of achieving success; like with business, one magazine company may be extremely successful if it corners the 18-25 year old market, but another company may be just as successful in using other methods to corner the 26-29 year old market (assuming financial differences in the market are fairly non-existent). The difference between sports and business, however, is that even though there are different ways to compete, there is only one way in which to succeed, and that is to win. But what are these different ways to succeed, and how does one succeed over the other. The different approaches to competition are the result of the variance in human nature. The same way two people can look like total opposites and both can be seen as being attractive, is the same way two teams on the football field can have completely different styles of play and both have even records at the end of a season. Yet analyzing the different styles of competition is important to understanding how even the athletes performing at the highest of athletic levels can go unsuccessful even though they have succeeded all their lives in winning at lower levels of competition.

IV. The Different Types of Competitors in Sports

Before going into the different types of competitors, there a some pieces of information you must know before you can understand the ratings and descriptions.

None of these descriptions or ratings account for one type being on different levels of competition. All of these descriptions should be interpreted as the portrayals of competitors at the highest level. While these descriptions and ratings can be applied to lower levels as well, all of the groups are being compared as if the were at the higher levels of competition where identities and physical attributes are more definitive.

No one group is better than the other. If that were so, than the world of sports would have only seen the likes of one type of champion. By describing these different types of competitors and having a playoff, the only conclusions being made are that past success and history of these groups will continue, and that certain match-ups warrant different advantages for each group against another.

The rating system is from 1-10 with, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest level of ability for that attribute.

Subgroup #1 – The Preparers

1A.The Mentally Advantaged (The “Brainstormers”) – This group of competitors is strongly commended for their preparation skills both physically and mentally. Competitors of this type spend countless hours perfecting their game, learning their playbooks, and preparing themselves for real life game situations. The Brainstormers do not only exceed in their intellectual capacity, but they push their physical skills to limit because they practice so frequently that they know all of their body’s limitations athletically. Their preparation in the field room allows for quick thinking on the field. While their ability to perform in the clutch when the situation has gone awry or is out of their control is sometimes sporadic, these players usually are able to make up for that by getting other people involved, assuming it is a team sport. The Brainstormers refuse to go down without of fight, and calculate every hope left to them when losing in a game.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “He possesses excellent instincts for the positionâÂ?¦He is one of the smartest playersâÂ?¦ he is like a coach on the field. Has an excellent feel for the gameâÂ?¦He is an excellent technician…Overall, he is one of the best to ever play the gameâÂ?¦he is smart and has excellent instincts for the positionâÂ?¦He is a playmaker âÂ?¦knows how to play the gameâÂ?¦ He is a field general that commands respect from his offense and the entire team.”[8]

1B.The Physically Advantaged (The “Muscles”) – This group of competitors noted for their supreme physical talents. Their ability to do things on the court is unparalleled, and their effort to harness and enhance their physical capabilities is just as amazing. Competitors in this group are very intuitive and make most of their plays on intuition. Their intensity level is know to drag until their remarkable athletic ability is required of them to win. Because the Muscles spend so much time attending to their body, their absence from the film room and studying off the field affects their mental capacity to see the entire game when they are on the field. However, when they are surrounded by inferior levels of athletic talent, their physical capabilities cover up most of their mental flaws and they are able to level, if not take over, the playing field. The innovativeness often inspires them to do things that can only be done by competitors of this mindset.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “He has almost no weaknesses, and he’s still just scratching the surfaceâÂ?¦He [has] created more plays than any other small forwardâÂ?¦His size and strength make him very difficult to post up againstâÂ?¦while his quickness and anticipation is explosiveâÂ?¦”

Subgroup #2 – The “Gamers”

2A. The Desire To Win At All Cost (The “Refusers” [to lose]) – Competitors of this sort are very 1-one track minded. They want to win, and they want to win at all cost. Their fixation with just winning often limits their ability to prepare at the highest of levels off the playing field, but they still manage to harness the skills that feel are most important to winning which overshadows a lot of missed practice time. And even though their intellectual preparation is lacking, it does not hurt them as much because they are quickly and instinctively smart in the field of play. Their ability to show up in the clutch is unparalleled, and is mostly attributed to their ability to know what it is that will be asked of them when the game is on the line.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “His size and athleticism are goodâÂ?¦ has outstanding mechanics… [He] processes information very quickly at the line of scrimmage and regularly finds his second, third or fourth optionsâÂ?¦ His intelligence is off the chartsâÂ?¦ has great recognition skillsâÂ?¦He has rare poise and handles pressure well.”

2B. Mean Spirited Players (The “Intensifiers”) – One world describes themâÂ?¦ Passion! Their passion for the game provides them with an intense love for their sport and a desire to be the greatest at what they do. Their work effort off the field is even better than their performance on it. Their outward emotional displays are so enthralling and emotion-felt that the do not just have intensity, but extensity as well. When it comes to making a play when the game is on the line, there are few options better than an Intensifier, because the will make a play from their passion alone.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “He takes excellent angles… He is exceptional [at] playing through and over trafficâÂ?¦He is an explosive hitterâÂ?¦ He can play with a mean streakâÂ?¦will take big shots when they are presented to himâÂ?¦ He displays exceptional big play flairâÂ?¦He has very few flaws in his gameâÂ?¦ Can be a little over-aggressiveâÂ?¦”8

3. Subgroup #3 – By The Book Players

3A. Mr. and Mrs. No Mistakes (The “Fundamentalists”) – The Fundamentalists stick to the basics of the game. While other groups pride themselves being creative, the fundamentalist makes his/her athletic living doing things by the book. There are very few flaws in a competitor of this nature. They prepare mentally at a level that is exactly equal to its physical talent, which is quite a rarity. And because of that, rarely do Fundamentalists experience let downs in their careers because not performing up to their potential is not an option for them. When they do things wrong, they make an effort to make up for it in way that not only negates their mistake but benefits the team or themselves substantially more than the mistake hurt them. However, the desire to have no mistakes can cause some lower level competitors of this level to press to hard, be too cautious, and forget their focus when trying to rectify an earlier mistake.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “âÂ?¦Isn’t as spectacular as some other playersâÂ?¦ and doesn’t come flying in from left field… His trademark bank shot (is his centerpiece)âÂ?¦ Needs to develop more moves… [His] noteworthy accomplishment is [his] incredible consistencyâÂ?¦ His past three seasons are virtual carbon copies and it seems he can keep producing them ad infinitum.” 8

3B. Reckless Abandonment (The “Crushers”) – One might wonder how this group is going to be so different from the Intensifiers. Well it starts with their lack of mental and/or physical preparation And while that does hurt them, their willingness to die making a play is a competitive edge that often cannot be matched. These players can do anything at anytime, and that can work to their advantage and it can work against them. They are capable of making a play out of nowhere and in a context in which it has never been done before. Their carelessness has cost them many wins, but it has provided them with just as many victories that they were not “supposed” to win too.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “Is one of the league’s most daring offensive playersâÂ?¦ He will throw passes to guys who don’t even know they’re openâÂ?¦His daredevil style makes him turnover-prone, but it’s also made him incredibly difficult to stopâÂ?¦”8

Subgroup 4 – The “Efforteers”

4A. The Movers and Shakers (The “Hustlers”) – This group brings their “A” every night. Their persistency, their undying will, their lack of regard for the situation or emotional fervor of the games causes them to be the pest on the court that nobody can exterminate. Their ability to make hustle play after hustle play is rarely seen in most other competitors because they feel it is necessary for them to make every play they can because their athletic prowess may not allow them to make the glamour plays that everyone else makes.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “He is outstanding at anticipating the play and consistently puts himself in position to make the playâÂ?¦ . He has a great feel for blocking anglesâÂ?¦ He gets a great jump on the ballâÂ?¦ His instincts are top notch, reads a play quickly, and jumps on run plays coming at him…He has outstanding overall toughness, and his instincts and competitiveness are also excellentâÂ?¦he is feisty” 8

4B. The Escape Goats (“The Sacrificers”) – These players often are aware of their supreme athletic ability, but choose to utilize the finer details of the game to their advantage. Because they focus their athletic talents on doing the “dirty work” they are able to turn their dirty work into a competitive force. For example, Jerome Bettis, a retired running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers was never very capable of getting a lot of yards on any given play even though he had the athletic ability to make a big play. But one thing was guaranteed, he could always get 2 or 3 yards anytime you needed him to. So he became an artisan at getting 2 or 3 yards every time he touched the ball, and his dominance of the game was unparalleled because he was willing to sacrifice his talents for the sake of the team. This is what the Sacrificers do for team sports, and they often go unnoticed for it, but are regarded as champion-caliber when they earn their due.

Professional Analysis of A Player of This Type: “He finishes his runs with good popâÂ?¦ Shows good awarenessâÂ?¦ Will adjust to the moving targetâÂ?¦ Rarely beaten by double movesâÂ?¦ Displays excellent intelligenceâÂ?¦”8

IV. The Playoff

The playoff will put the eight aforementioned competitor types against in each other in a single elimination tournament. Each game will consist of a historical reference to players of each competitor type (for the first round), a single winner, and an analysis of why one competitor type would fair better against another. The Playoff bracket is located below:

ESPN is celebrated for its online and interactive playoffs of past teams and players. Following suit with their similar playoffs, the results and analysis from their playoffs will be used in determining who the winner of this competition will be. Sportswriters and analyst are the people who are most responsible for the results of these polls, and their analysis of these hypothetical competitions are in great depth, contain much sincerity, and offer insight into the insight of competitors. The writers stress the importance of how debates over these hypothetical competitions demonstrate the sports world’s ever-changing outlook on what they see valuable in competitors and in human beings. Thus, it should with out saying that this playoff will help understand how the most successful competitors in sports end up being some of the most successful outside of sports as well.

V. What Inspires Competition?

“Sport is an institution or social behavior, the core of which is competition based on skill or strategy.”[9]

The preceding quote suggest that competition is based on skill and/or strategy, an assessment that is correct and touches an even deeper point. Because if competition is based on skill and/or strategy, than that would suggest that competition is inspired by the presence of skill and strategy in society. But how are skill and strategy an inspiration to the millions of players, coaches, and fans in the world? Is not the beauty, the excitement and grace of sports the reason people are so entertained by it? Perhaps beauty, excitement, grace, and skill and strategy are all one of the same. After all, Ms. is not always the woman who is thought to be more attractive to the masses, but it is the woman with who has beauty, the grace, and the talent and the design to make the whole package worthy of wearing the crown. The same goes for sports. All of the exciting plays, the miraculous shots, and human defying stunts are planned, set up, and executed by those who have the talent and desire to do so. Have you ever seen a coach on the sideline after a really big play? He or she is usually quite indifferent to the excitement the fans, and even his/her players, are demonstrating in reaction to a great play. Yes, there are a few coaches who embrace in the enthusiasm of the moment, but even so, their reactions are a lot less exuberant than the majority of those around him or her. The reason for this is because coaches have drawn the play up, or have seen the event in their head thousands of times, and to see it manifested in real life, while just being short of amazing, it is almost redundant to them because they planned for it to happen. In “Toward a Theory of Competition and Cooperation in Sports,”[10] Kelly infers that the complexity of football, its strategies, its “X’s” and “O’s,” and its general command of an entire group dynamic was appealing enough to the centralized and urbanized worker that it drew them away from America’s past time, and over to the NFL. He says that, “as group-life become more segmented, more highly structured and fragmented at home, at work, or in leisure activities, the reaction to this experienced impersonalization and alienation manifests itself in an attraction towardâÂ?¦sports which reflect in their organization these same trends.” Which is to say that the sociological organization of football will cause people to relate their regimented to lives to the orderly fashion of the sport. Brett Favre,[11] in an interview, once said that he did not think he could retire from football quite yet because the regiment of football and its orderliness inspired him to be the competitor that he is. But in the same interview, he said that “at the end of the day, I get up to play football because I want to win.”

That desire to win, to be the best, to be remembered, to be love, is something that inspires all human beings to compete in whatever field it is they are participating in. In sports, that means being willing to practice hard, train in the off-season, eat right, watch your weight and sacrifice your body so that one day you can make the play that will deem you the best competitor of your sport. Rudy Tomjanovich, after being a heavy underdog to win the championship and going on to coach his team to a win in the NBA finals, said “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.” Tomjanovich was sufferer of serious head damage during his playing years and almost lost his life from it. Because of that incident, one could take that quote 2 ways. The fist and the most apparent being that you should never doubt someone who has the desire and will to win. But the other meaning that that quote shares is that the heart is the lifeblood of the human being, and if to underestimate it, is to take too lightly the fact that someone’s life is on the line. A person invest everything they do, in their life. The choices they make are usually in favor of life, and so if you are going to undervalue their effort than you are that this person is not the champion of themselves, the defender of their life. And in the end, if the person is not inspired to compete for their life than you will not suffer the consequences of underestimation. But if you undervalue a champion’s desire to live, you are sure to get the fight that you were not expecting.

VI. Does Competition Drive Sports

“The real competition is the time you go to the gym, the time you put into training for an event. That’s the competition”[12]

Any athlete and any coach in competitive sports will say that practice and training are more important to the goal of winning athletic events. So if practice is essential to winning, than does competitive spirit take a back seat to practice in terms of what drives? Let us compare the different aspects of team sports versus individual sports. In football, a team sport, a person accessed a penalty loses yardage for the entire team. In tennis, if you hit the ball past the fault line, only one person is accessed a problem. Imagine asking a group of 11 people to do 11 things in coordination with one another, and then try telling one person to do just one thing. The more and more you run that experiment, the more you would notice that the success rate of the individual is much higher than the success rate of the 11. That is why practice is so essential to team sports because a group of 11 requires more work than a single athlete. But if practice is not the number one factor for individual athletes, it cannot be the most prominent factor for teams either because while the team should maintain a group dynamic in theory, it never really does. And that is because competition in fact inspires practice, and practice leads to success, and success leads to championships, and championships are the measurable entity of an athletes athletic career.

However, it cannot be said that championships drive sports because often it is the case that professional athletes become complacent after they achieve their goal of competition, whatever that might be. Winning over and over again does not breed the growth of sports. Stephen A. Smith[13] said that the growing love affair for the “Yankees came to a standstill across because they overachieved when no one was competing with them for the titles.” Continuous winning is thought to be the result of a lack in competition. No matter how good a team may be, if the public and even the players within a league do not see parity, sports organizations lose large amounts of revenue. It is the consensus thought, and Michael Wilbon[14] reiterates when he says that, “fans love the NFL because of parity. The fact that your team can go from the cellar to competing for the championship in one year is why people watch the NFL.” That point justifies the fact that competition is the reason for sports. When James Naismith created the game of basketball, it was not played for merely just exercising for too long. In fact, the very year after its institution, women were already playing basketball on a competitive level.

Competition driving sports has been a fact for a long time. A statistical breakdown of the NBA shows that the league made relatively more money the years that included its greatest rivalries and intense competition throughout the league. League revenue was up when Magic vs. Bird[15] was the new fad of the 80’s, and it was relatively even higher when and Magic were counterparts. In fact, sports revenues have increased substantially since 1950 because of added teams and owners that have made professional sports more competitive.[16]

VII. Final Game

So what causes one type of competition to succeed over another? By analyzing the characteristics of the champion, one can see that there are indeed a multitude of factors at attribute to the success of the mentally advantage competitor. A competitor who is capable of harnessing their full physical potential in sports is an occurrence that is much more rare than most would think. But if an athlete does have the mental capacity to train, use his mind and his body to get done what needs to be done in order to win athletic contests, than they already are a step ahead of the rest of field. The “Brainstormer’s” group also has a large mental capacity to understand the intricacies of sports and is able to see a situation and take from it whatever he or she is being given. Muscle memory and quick thinking are probably the two most competitive assets to a competitor and the Brainstormer have utilized their intelligence to develop a great muscle memory that supersedes any lacking in the athletic area because they are able to do perform more instinctively and do not have to waste time thinking and can just react naturally. But the most vital reason to the success of the Brainstormer is his or her ability to demonstrate the will and desire to compete, and that is shown in the practice abilities of this particular type of competitor. The discipline and the focus to go out and practice for something an immeasurable amount of times more than you actually have to perform demonstrates a desire to win through preparation. Michael Jordan is a prime example of the Brainstormer, especially in his older age, because as he lost some of his physical capabilities, he trained his body to give him maximum effort every night out on the basketball court, and then he allowed his mental savvy for the game take over where his body left off.

VII. The Competitor in Society

“The ambitions and drives associated with inner-direction stem from an ethical impulse which emphasizes frugality, self-reliance, hard work and competitivenessâÂ?¦If one is successful it is because one worked hard and honestly and deserves successâÂ?¦.Conversely, failure is understood as a personal misfortune caused by oneself.” Robert J. Kelly

In “The Game of Life,”[17] William G. Bowen contends that many collegiate-athletes leave college having been underachieved in college. Contrary to popular myth, Bowen argues that college athletes take away from the college experience and hurt colleges more than they help the school or themselves. When looking at the data that they presented, it was quite hard to decipher how it corresponded with their arguments. But their arguments seemed to manipulate the data in such a way that it seemed no matter what the data was, Bowen would come to the conclusion that college sports do not help athletes build character, nor become better individuals or achieve alumni support, nor even help underrepresented minorities achieve a higher education. With out the comprehensive 30 year research, I cannot contend with Bowen to a high degree, but as a college athlete who has experienced the journey that he is condemning, I have found that athletics is a tremendous character builder and that the hundreds of hours that an athlete spends practicing and perfecting their skills with other people helps individuals build a character and rapport that is unlike many others. The drive and competitive spirit that athletes both bring to and take away from sports is essential to so many things that they do in life, and help them to succeed in many other endeavors outside of sports. I have seen countless numbers of my fellow minority alum reap the benefits of a higher education through the attainment of jobs that are only presented to the most selective body of college graduates. The overall notion that athletes are bad for universities is one that echoes in the mind of many people who read this. However, a college athlete, or better yet, a true competitor, who demonstrates the drive to succeed in life in the same manner they do sports will be successful, because true competitors will always have that desire to succeed and win the “prize.”

IX. Conclusion

Competition is a matter of fixating ones abilities toward one goal. When an individual has to compete, their behaviors, their emotions, they all change because he or she is trying to attain the profits of winning. When a group of people enter competition, it is much like s a social contract, in that each person on the team sacrifices something of themselves in order to see the group survive. The individual and group dynamics that competition brings about inspire such immense feelings of group solidarity in humans and is a testament to the human’s ability to survive. Outside of sports, people compete for resources everyday, and they are going to continue to do that for a long time because the prize in real life, is life itself. The same way that attainment of victory fuels competition and drives the motivation of sports, is the same way in which the attainment of life’s necessities fuels passion and motivates people to live life. Competition in sports is only different from the competition in life because it is a created institution that only means something because people gave it meaning; which also can be said of marriage and religion. But where would we be without those institutions, and without the effects that religion has had on our society and world’s? Maybe it is hard to decipher at this point in time whether or not sports and competition are worthy of some of the sociological analysis that these institutions receive seeing as how sports could not truly be considered an institution of society until the 20th century. But maybe 4 centuries, or 8, or 10 centuries from now, sports will be viewed as a key component of the sociological world, one that everyone has participated in and has been altered by.

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[1] Dictionary.com; “Competition”- The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry.

[2] Wikipedia.com; “Basketball”

[3] Leonard, Wilbert M.; IllinoisState University

[4] Kelly, Robert J; “Toward a Theory of Competition + Cooperation in Sports As an Indicator of Change in American Life”

[5] Quote from R. Helanko in the book: “Toward a Theory of Competition + Cooperation in Sports As an Indicator of Change in American Life” by Robert J. Kelly

[6] Dicitionary.com – “Sociology” – The study of human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society

[7] Robert Schoop; ColumbiaUniversity Head Coach 2003-2005; [Interview]

[8] NFL Insider Espn.com; Various scouting reports from anonymous scouts

[9] Sociology of Sport; Development, Present State and Prospects

[10] Kelly, Robert J.; “Toward a Theory of Competition and Cooperation in Sports As An Indicator of Change in American Life”

[11] Favre, Brett; QB Green Bay Packers, Interview February 2006, ESPN

[12] Anonymous Professional Body Builder

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