I have been surrounded by coaches all of my life. I am the son of a college coach. For 27 years I have been a high school coach. Most of my best friends are coaches, and I can't tell you how many times I've heard coaches praise the athlete who flat out "competes". I don't think there is a coach around who doesn't prioritize this quality in an athlete.
Furthermore, when a group of "competitors" assemble together you have the bedrock for a very special team. The other day Coach Cooley tweeted out, "Throwback picture from the boys of 2013. Very competitive group, miss these guys!" I replied back, "=COTY" (as in: Equals Coach of the Year). Of course I was kidding, or was I? No doubt Coach Cooley deserves that award every year, but we would all agree in order to reach our full potential we need competitive athletes.
Brett Ledbetter, author of What Drives Winning, speaks to this performance skill and references the Latin root word "competere", which means: "to strive together". He suggests we actually need to view competition as a partnership! We need other people to push us to a level that we couldn't get to on our own. We strive together. Magic and Bird. Bulls and Pistons. You and your hardest working buddy. The examples of iron sharpening iron are endless.
Instead of Me 'vs' You. We can replace the middle word versus and change it to: Me 'with' You. Why the change? Simple, we are there to make each other better. Obviously this can be said of teammates pushing each other to greatness, but take it a notch up: your opponent. Magic needed Bird to bring out his best and Bird needed Magic to do the same. It becomes a partnership so to speak. When you start to frame your competition like this, you no longer fear anybody. As a matter of fact, you start seeking out the best. Your appetite is to play the best at his best. The more you are challenged the more you will grow.
Coach John Wooden defined competitive greatness as delivering your best when your best is needed, and at the same time, you make those around you better, too. A person with this quality loves a challenge, and the tougher the better. In the sixth game of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan had the flu, yet he played. During time outs toward the end of the game he would almost pass out, yet he continued. When he finally won the game, scoring his 45th point with 5.2 seconds to go, he could barely stand. That is competitive greatness.
So let's all strive together to be the best we can be!