Competitive comparisons cause confidence to fluctuate


Yousuf El-Jayyousi / The Rock

Nikol Slatinska

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata drowns the corridor as musicians practice for their auditions. Members gather outside the wooden doors, leaning toward the direction of the music to size up their competition.
Just before the auditioners call the next name, a quick glance towards a competing musician wracks nerves and rockets motivation to become the best. Groups of people gather in pods to discuss who they think is the better performer and who really deserves the first chair spot.
Runners sprint past each other, gaining confidence as they outrun their opponents — including their own teammates. In order to make varsity, it is essential to have no mercy and do what needs to be done in order to be the best.
Karen Coffin, a retired coach of National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) said competition is healthy in sports and other skill demanding activities. It can promote motivation to better and evolve the group as everyone pushes each other to get better.
Competition can also cause teammates to lose motivation and confidence. Of course playing and performing against other teams or groups leads to strict competition with opponents, but what happens when there’s competition among teammates?
“I definitely get jealous sometimes when people do better at blocking someone on a football play than I do or when someone gets a solo and I don’t,” senior varsity player Ben Lopez said. “I take that and use it to do better and be better next time.”
Jealousy is a normal human emotion, said clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone. How people react to the emotion, however, is what deems it positive or negative. For example, giving up on the task at hand because someone is better at it is a negative reaction, whereas using it to improve is a positive reaction.
Competing and practicing is what drives individuals and even groups to reach their full potential.
“I’m competitive in a lot of the things I do,” senior Davis Erickson, a band member, said. “With the most recent band placement auditions, I tied scores with one of my good friends. We both just kind of pushed each other to do better and [are] therefore making the band itself better.”
Just as a star player on a football team can’t win the game alone, a soloist can’t win a choir or band competition without the whole ensemble. The students in performing arts have many ways to surpass others and become “the best.” Junior Connor Squellati has been playing percussion in band since sixth grade and is now in the top concert band at RBHS.
“The only time I practice is if I either want to kill it in an audition or if I feel threatened by another band member,” Squellati said. “But when I didn’t get into State and others did, I beat myself up about it because everyone expected me to, so I got down to practicing again.”
Whether auditions, being first chair, having a solo or just fulfilling a show better than a peer, there are always ways to show off talents and get ahead.
Throughout the entire year, band students have opportunities to advance, such as challenging other players. For example, someone who is third chair could challenge the person of their same instrument in second chair in a playing competition. If they beat their competitor, they would take the title of second chair.
“I was in a challenge for a chair last year, and I can definitely say it was one of the worst flops I’ve ever done. I didn’t practice enough and my nerves got the [best] of me,” sophomore Khalid Ibdah said. “It was still an incredibly positive experience because everyone was still so lighthearted about it.”
At RBHS siblings often compete in the same sport whether it’s at the same time or years later, after one of them has graduated. Sophomore Mariah Blackburn and senior Aliyah Blackburn have competed with the cross country and track and field teams as sisters. Support is a key feature in building a stronger team, according to Their father, Neal Blackburn, coaches them in both sports and is also a teacher at RBHS.
“I’m very blessed and honored to coach them and see them do their best,” Blackburn said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Family psychologist Dr. Sylvia Rimm said sibling participation in the same sport like the Blackburns is not uncommon. Because of being raised in the same household, parents can push a certain sport onto their children. They can also look up to one another and try to mimic hobbies, such as the sport the other is involved in.
“I do look up to my sister as a leader or a captain, as does everyone on our team,” Mariah Blackburn said. “I know I might not ever reach beating or merely running the same times she does, but she does inspire me.”
The Blackburn sisters have been competing in cross country and track together since last year’s season. Although they are competitive as individuals, they are supportive as a team.
“We have our skill levels in different areas, so there isn’t much rivalry,” Aliyah Blackburn said.
Although the Blackburns themselves may not have a rivalry, some of their teammates likely do. According to an article from Psych Central, rivalry among teammates is not unusual.
Furthermore, the same research concludes that jealously rooting from competition is simply human nature.
For some, comparing talents and skills to others can be degrading, but for the Blackburn family it can also be inspiring — depending on how the comparison is taken.
His freshman year Squellati compared himself to another band member, and that pushed him to practice harder and push forward while staying down to earth.
“In order to prove you are the best you have to be able to respect other’s talents as much as your own instead of putting people down,” Squellati said. “You compare and you take that and turn it into something great.”