Competition for a Stronger America

Drew - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 2, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This summer Beachwood, Ohio cancelled its community youth baseball all-star game to avoid “bruising young egos.” Nine-year-old youth baseball pitcher Jericho Scott was told just last week that he could no longer pitch because he was too good. Youth soccer leagues around the country regularly hand out trophies to all participants, win or lose. All over the country competition between youths is being stifled in order to avoid hurting feelings.

Not only is this practice unfair to the would-be Beachwood all-stars, nine-year-old pitcher Jericho Scott, and all those soccer players who actually earned their trophies, it is also un-American. America is a country founded on competition, hard work, and reward, so why are children learning that mediocrity or even failure is to be rewarded, while excellence is to be ignored or even punished?

Like it or not the world is one full of competition. From the college admissions process, to the job market, people constantly strive to be the best at what they do. This summer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps won an unprecedented 8 gold medals. Imagine if he had been told when he was young that he was too good too swim because the other swimmers might get their feelings hurt.

This “everyone gets a trophy” mentality is something unheard of even a generation ago. It is a new phenomenon born out of the age of rubber playgrounds and plastic slides that don’t go too fast and don’t get too hot.

I believe we need to teach our kids to embrace competition, rather than shy away from it. Competition makes people better. Maybe instead of having their feelings hurt by not making the youth all-star team this year, the kids from the Beachwood community league will work harder so that next year they can share in the same honor that their teammates did. Maybe by facing the dominant Jericho Scott on the pitchers mound, young hitters will grow as players and people and be more inclined to try and get a hit off of him the next time around.

The United States is a merit based society. While it doesn’t always work out this way, we believe that the most qualified individuals are selected for jobs and elected to office. I don’t believe a child is ever too young to begin learning that winning is better than losing, and that excellence is better than mediocrity.

As Americans, we live in perilous times. For the first time in about a century we are facing economic competition from places like India and China. Many experts believe that we are on the brink of a severe recession. Our standing in the international community leaves much to be desired and the American brand isn’t what it used to be. These are all challenges that the next generation will be forced to bear. The thought that they make be taken on by a generation of kids who have a sense of entitlement and who are routinely shielded from challenging situations is frightening.

The United States is the greatest country on the planet, but the rest of the world is close on our heels. In order to maintain the greatness that our fathers and grandfathers built, we must teach our kids not to shy away from competition, but to thrive on it. We must embrace competition in order to raise stronger individuals who are prepared to take on the coming challenges of the future.