Children were placed in one of two study groups: the first group was instructed to perform an activity with the goal of “beating” other participants, the second group of children was instructed to explore and discover new ways to perform an activity.
“Results showed that subjects in the competition condition displayed less subsequent intrinsic motivation than did mastery-oriented subjects. The present findings corroborate predictions based on cognitive evaluation theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) that competition can have deleterious consequences on intrinsic motivation.”
So imagine what happens in a hyper-competitive environment where trying to “beat” others is not limited to swim meets, but every training session is a competition to become… the fastest in the lane, so you are able to move up lanes, so that you are in a position to move up training groups, to move up to higher and higher levels of training where the intensity of competition increases exponentially at each new level. Don’t forget, the competition heats up only further in the hyper-competitive environment of swim meets.
And we wonder why kids are burning out of sport at the age of 10, 11 or 12?
Absolutely, there are kids who manage to stay in the sport longer, but what happens when they stop being able to “beat” others? Typically, its only a few months before they quit, citing that they don’t like the sport, hate the sport, or defer to the typical excuse of missing out on social activities with school (meanwhile… while they were ‘beating’ others, there was no need for any social activities outside of swimming).
Results at the age of 8, 10 even 12 are meaningless in the long term.
If we want children to remain in sport for the long term, then there is only one approach: build their intrinsic motivation by approaching the sport as a set of skills that need to be acquired, developed, refined, integrated with other skills, and then performed under increasing levels of stress in demonstration of the degree of mastery that the athlete has achieved… not over anyone else, but over themselves.
This is how you succeed in sport.
This is how you succeed in life.
Want more for your child then to be sorted? Then find a team, a coach whose training philosophy is based on building the intrinsic motivation of athletes to compete with themselves by constantly improving in ability and where competition is simply a means to assess how far the athlete has progressed in their ability to execute.
If a child is to end up at the Olympics, Worlds, at international level competition… fret not, they will be recruited because the value of letting them slip through the cracks is just not something that will be allowed to happen.
If a child is to end up winning in another area of life, then after learning how to develop intrinsic motivation through proper coaching in sport, they have the potential to apply that same process to anything else in life… and win.
One approach chews up children and spits them out when they are no longer of value to the organization.
The other approach seeks to provide children with the skill set they need in the long term, to win and win consistently.
Choose the approach you want your child exposed to wisely… your child’s future rides on it.