Footsteps in Faith: Competitiveness can blend with sportsmanship

| May 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

Koyn

Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Koyn
Deputy Command Chaplain-Support
Integrated Religious Support Office
United States Army Hawaii
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — This week. 15 Unit Ministry Teams from 25th Infantry Division and U. S. Army Hawaii competed in the Best UMT Competition.

Chaplains and chaplain assistants gave it their all over three days of competition that focused on testing chaplain corps and Soldier skills.

Competitions such as these are a good time to reflect on the role of competitiveness in our lives.

Vince Lombardi famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” General Patton similarly said he wouldn’t give a “hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed.” While these quotes may motivate us from time to time, there is probably something that thinks they are slightly unbalanced when applied to all of life.

Sportsmanship prevails
Consider the story of Ivan Anaya. He is a Spanish runner who was competing in a cross country race a few years ago.

Ivan was trailing Abel Mutai, a Kenyan Olympic medalist, by quite a bit when they approached the finish line. But as Mutai passed the cheering crowd in the chute, he stopped short of the finish line thinking he had already crossed. Anaya quickly closed the distance on the Kenyan. But instead of exploiting the mistake, Ivan guided Mutai with gestures across the finish line ensuring that he would come in second.

If winning were the “only thing,” then Anaya would have been crazy to not get across the finish line first. Yet, most of us applaud his gesture of sportsmanship.

Knowing that he could not have won on his own merits he said, “I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”

But there is a tension in all of this. People generally do better when we keep score. I purposely enter races solely because I train harder and am more disciplined when I know I will be competing.

The ancient sage Paul of Tarsus said this: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”

So, maybe it is not competitiveness that is the issue, but where our focus lies. When the competition is against ourselves, then sportsmanship is much easier.

As I watched Unit Ministry Teams come across the finish line of the final foot march, I saw this level of competitiveness and sportsmanship show through. Some were pushing themselves to the limits, while some others held back, risking that others would think they are less fit, in order to encourage another member of their team to the finish.

Using Ivan Anaya’s thoughts, “What is the name that you are earning as it relates to competition?” And what are you teaching others?

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Category: Standing Columns

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