IT's TIME we took a long, hard look at where modern competitive methods have led society. The trampling of fans at the soccer stadium in Brussels, Belgium, May 29 shocked the world. But it was only the latest in a series of tragedies. In 1964, to cite one example, some 300 people were killed and 500 injured in Lima, Peru, at a soccer match between Argentina and Peru. In 1984 fans caused immense damage in and around. the stadium in Paris, France, after France beat England 2-0. At U.S. sporting events it is not unusual to hear the crowd shout, "Kill the umpire!" Or "Stomp'em!" World — known boxers, baseball and football players, and even tennis players have become noted for their unsportsmanlike attitudes. They throw tantrums, dispute calls, antagonize their opponents. I remember in the 1950s when I was participating in high school and college track and field. One book I read, written by a nationally known coach, advocated runners "psych" themselves up before a race by working up a hatred for the other runners. He said, "Think of pulverizing them, grinding them down, killing them. Then take out your anger as you smash them in defeat on the running track." It seems, too, as though money and corruption have gone hand in hand in sports. Competitive sports are big business and there are big problems accompanying big — time sports. Yet few seem to question what is the best way to deal with these problems — few are willing to evaluate the CAUSES.
Not Limited to Athletics
We hear them every day. Expressions such as "It's a jungle out there." "Cutthroat." "It's a dog-eat-dog world." That seems to be the natural way to describe everyday business. The modern world thrives on competition. We accept it as a fact of life. "Win at all costs" is the style. One popular book on business management is even titled Winning Through Intimidation. Where did it all start — this highly competitive way of life? Why does everyone have to be in competition? What ever happened to cooperation? From the time we are small children we learn the way of competition, selfishness and greed. Have you ever observed two small children playing in a room? If one starts to play with a toy, almost always the other will try to take it away. They tug and pull. One starts to cry (the one who loses the grabbing contest). Yet parents smile about how cute all little children are. A few years later competition manifests itself in neighborhood sporting events. Boys go to a school yard to play ball. The biggest and best athletes are elected captains. They choose the remaining players till finally those with the least ability are chosen. If there are enough players the least athletic will not be selected at all, but will have to watch from a nearby bench. Why? Because everyone wants to win. And those who are not gifted at hitting or kicking a ball, catching a pass, shooting a basket or running fast are not welcome on the team. Many youngsters experience their first memories of rejection because of competitive sports. Perhaps those who are not athletic take up music. Competition again manifests itself. Who will play first chair? Who will get the solo part? Who will be drum major of the band? As in sports, those with the greatest ability "win." For those who are neither athletically or musically inclined, perhaps a studious, academic life is the answer. Again competition rushes to the fore. Who can make the highest grades on the test? Scholarships to prestigious universities are granted on highly competitive test scores. It even starts in the early grades with, spelling contests, essay contests, competitive science projects. Why do there always have to be winners and losers?' Why can't there simply be participants? Men and women who play a sport, a musical instrument or learn a subject to achieve their own personal goals, pleasure and satisfaction? Or as a service to others? As one of the United States television networks begins its sports coverage, athletes are shown in the "thrill of victory or the agony of defeat." To lose puts one in the depths of despair. To win means recognition. Perhaps fame and fortune. Those who excel in competitive fields find rewards. As youngsters they are more popular, respected and looked up to by their peers. Later in life they find success in college scholarships, professional contracts, often national attention. And the only way to such success seems to be through competition. Seldom do we see cooperation as an alternative way to success. I have never seen a scholarship granted to the student who most contributed to the success of fellow students. In many circles of business, sports and the arts the spirit of cooperation — helping someone else to do his or her best — is even subjected to ridicule. Why, if we cooperate someone else may get that big sale. Someone else might score the winning goal. Someone else might get a higher test score, or win the lead part in the school play, or be chosen to play the solo in the concert. Far too few people have experienced the thrill of assisting, helping and encouraging another person achieve success. Herein lies the key to a better way.
Alternative to Competition
Slowly and gradually educators and parents in our modern world are coming to see there is a great deal of work yet to be done in the field of cooperative athletics and games. There are whole new vistas to be explored. It's only natural for all of us to desire acceptance. From the earliest age of recollection we wanted to be part of the family, the neighborhood, the school. For many, the first memory of rejection had to do with games and play. Perhaps an older brother or sister would not let you play with him or her. You were too little — not good enough to compete at their levels. And your friends might have chosen someone else who was bigger and better at playing a game in the park or at school. By the teen years, many young people tryout for a competitive athletic team. Anyone who has worked at practice and then sat at the team meeting when the coach selected the final team has known the thrill of being chosen or the discouragement of rejection. Usually the chosen few become popular and accepted by fellow students, as well as schoolteachers and administrators. Far too often the not-so-popular slink off into the background. Personality growth can be stifled. Yes, it is high time to take a long and hard look at sports, competition and games. One pioneer in the field of cooperative athletics is Canadian educator Terry Orlick. In his book The Cooperative Sports & Games Book he notes: "Pitting children against one another in games where they frantically compete for what only a few can have, guarantees failure and rejection for the many. Many children's games and programs are in fact designed for elimination. Many ensure that one wins and everyone else loses, leaving sport 'rejects' and 'dropouts' to form the vast majority of our North American population." Mr. Orlick goes on in this most helpful book to outline a bold new (or is it old?) approach to children and games. I was first introduced to the concept of "new games" about five years ago while I was serving as director at Vail, Colorado, for more than 1,000 families at an eight-day convention. On my staff was a, young man who worked with the Aurora (suburb of Denver) Recreation Department. For the convention we were planning the traditional competitive games for young and old alike — basketball, softball, tennis, golf. One day he came to me with what seemed like a radical proposal. He said: "I have been working with young people in my job at the Aurora Recreation Department the past few years and we have found that cooperative games provide a much healthier atmosphere than competitive games. I would like to see us plan our convention recreation schedule around these games. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results." At first I was skeptical. But after some thought and further staff meetings we decided to give it a try. During the convention, I went to the playgrounds where scores of children learned these "new games." I watched this young man lead small children like the Pied Piper of Hamelin through obstacle courses, snake lines, parachute tosses, water-balloon races, egg-passing relays and a variety of other fun and cooperative games. I was now convinced there was a better way. Children could play together. EVERY child could participate. There were no losers. Everyone was a winner. Because winning was not the goal. Participation was. There is even a national foundation (New Games Foundation, P.O. Box 7901, San Francisco, CA 94120, U.S.A.) that promotes and publishes information about noncompetitive sports.
"Give" Versus "Get"
Cooperation or competition? That is the question. It all boils down to the basic philosophy of life that the founder and editor in chief of this magazine, Herbert W. Armstrong, has long taught. The causes of human ills, war, sickness and poverty result from human greed and selfishness — man's desire to GET. It didn't start with professional sports. It started at the beginning of human society — with Adam and Eve who chose to TAKE the forbidden fruit. They chose the way of human experimentation rather than divine revelation from the Creator. Nearly 6,000 years of human experience have shown that man's way of get has never resulted in happiness. We have chosen Satan's way of competition. After all, it was Satan who started that philosophy when he convinced one third of the angels to revolt against God — to become competitors (Rev. 12:4-9). I have touched upon some of the most complex problems of today's world-violence, drugs, cheating, unfair and unethical business competition. Yet the solution I am proposing to these complex problems lies in a way of life that can be taught little children. I am not so naive to think we can wave our magic wand of new children's games and have complex world problems solved. But one has to start somewhere. And what better place to start than with the next generation of leaders — today's children? But competition has become such a way of life that proposing an alternative sounds radical. To suggest that our whole modern lifestyle of games, sports and competition needs to be evaluated and revamped may seem absurd to some. From childhood games to adult physical education and mores, the whole way of life needs new thought, new life, new spirit. I don't believe in abolishing the development of athletic skills or competition of the right kind. Half the battle is attitude. Through athletics young people can learn to strive for excellence. The right kind of competition — especially against one's own self — can certainly contribute to character development, developing confidence and self-discipline. The right kind of athletic endeavor broadens one's perspective, contributes to the spirit of fair play and abiding by rules. There is a great deal of good in athletics. Even as I approach 48 years of age, I actively participate in a variety of sports programs with many of my friends. At Ambassador College a few years ago we had, for a temporary period, intercollegiate athletic competition. We tried for the highest quality program possible. Colleges we competed against had the highest respect for our coaches and athletes. We strove for good sportsmanship. Other school administrators and coaches generally counted it joy to play at our gym on the Pasadena campus. Referees sought work at Ambassador games because they were treated with respect. But upon thoughtful evaluation, the board of directors decided not to continue the intercollegiate program. It was too easy to drift into the improper competitive spirit. We didn't totally do away with sports and athletics. Intramural sports remain an active part of campus life — but we are striving for that balance between striving to improve one's abilities and helping others also achieve their best. I have never seen or experienced anywhere else when an opponent makes a good move, scores a goal or makes an excellent play that the opposing team says, "Good shot." Or, "Nice move." But that's what our coaches teach. By no means have we achieved perfection, but we are striving every day for that ideal. If little children are taught games of cooperation, what a different view they would have as adults. Can you imagine what changes would be made if the greatest reward and honor came to those who helped others the most? Can you imagine a sport where the person who gave the most to others was the real winner? The concept is so strange that many can't even think of a game where that is possible. What a testimony to our competitive way of life! If you are a parent, set out to learn new and different ways to teach your children the way of cooperation. If you are an educator, spend more time thinking how you can encourage students to grow and learn through cooperation rather than competition. And no matter who you are, in your family, business and recreation you can start to practice new and different methods. You can, for example, develop ways to maintain physical fitness and family togetherness. Cooperation — it's a way of life in which there are no losers. Everyone wins. It is a better way.