Belonging in Competition
Competition may be inherently divisive and alienating, as people are sorted into predetermined roles based on “winning” and “losing”. People handle competition in different ways, and some types of responses are more successful than others. Ideally, we gradually learn to manage our frustration when we don’t win a game. Recently, I was touched by one student’s empathy, and his attempts to resolve a situation when two of the other students in the group began quibbling about the game.
This student’s initiative prompted us to put together a short book about “How To Be an Awesome Game Partner”. We examined competition from three different angles, (1) mindset or cognitive framework of the concept of game, (2) resilience and positive self-talk, and (3) self-regulation and problem solving. How you view a specific situation may shape how you interpret the outcome of events. The ability to self-soothe and provide oneself with affirmations may be a key part of resilience and the ability to attempt new and challenging activities. Self-awareness of one’s own state of being and generating solutions to manage emotional states is part of self-regulation.
Students offered suggestions based on guided prompts.
Cognitive Framework: “What are different ways to think about what happened in a game?” and “What are different ways to think about winning and losing?”
• Remember it’s just a game. It’s not real life. It’s not like the “Hunger Games”.
• You gotta believe you’ll have a chance. If not today, then maybe another day, or maybe in a little bit.
• Sometimes people get lucky in a game so it’s not always fair.
• Think about the times that you’ve won before and know that you will win again.
• Think about things you’re good at.
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Resilience: “What could you say to yourself to feel better?”
• You’re doing good.
• At least you did your best.
• Second place is good.
• You gave it effort.
• You’re still a winner inside.
Problem Solving: “What could you do if you get upset while you are playing a game?”
• Take a short break
• Take a walk
• Write it down
• Talk to the teacher about it
• Stop the game
As a group, and as a team, we created guidelines about how to view competition. The collaboration involved in the project established a sense of unity toward a common goal and a shared understanding. This new sense of community may have helped students feel that the entire game experience is a part of group belonging, instead of a solo act. As clinicians, we infuse multiple objectives within single lessons, with long-term goals around developing successful life strategies. Sometimes the lesson we had planned becomes less important than the lesson that emerges.