PRB Articles


Cooperation and Competition: Evil Twins

Competition is healthy, but cooperation leaves fewer bruises. canstockphoto10854722

It suddenly struck me that competition can be the evil twin to cooperation.

I don’t really know what got me thinking about this; maybe just the state of affairs in the world, from interaction between nations of the world to bad behavior by parents, coaches and sometimes participants in youth sports.

It seems to me there is a fine line between the inclusive concept of cooperation and the exclusive nature of competition. When the line is crossed from the former to the latter, it goes from the “win-win” zone to the “winner-loser” zone.

We humans have been competing since the first two cavemen spotted that perfect club lying on the ground, just had to have it and banged heads to get it 350,000 years ago.  But really, as a species we have evolved way past all that, haven’t we?

Or have we?

When you see the violent actions of parents during youth sports events you may believe we haven’t wandered too far from the cave.

Though all these instances of human reaction are very different, it seems to me they all stem back to the one thing – competition.

I know that competition is necessary and when taken to reasonable lengths it is good. But consider this question which I will leave each reader to answer within their own scope of experience: where has it gotten us so far?

It seems like some people automatically default to the competition zone when the cooperation zone would have worked just as well and left fewer bruises on both sides.

So why, you might ask, do I wax philosophically in the Week-Ender about this? It’s a fair question and one I’d ask myself.

The answer is because, as parks and rec professionals and public administrators, I think it is an important issue and one that bears some consideration. Many of you work directly with young people who look up to you. They see you as someone who has the answers.

So what will you tell them if they ask you about competitiveness?

That even in sports there is a level of cooperation; it is called the rules of the game.  The rules lay out the level of cooperation each team agrees to before the event begins. Those rules extend to spectators as well. In business, laws provide the boundary.  Even in war, there are certain rules that civilized humans are expected to abide.

Unfortunately, not everybody is civilized and sometimes the rules of competition are violated. But the vast majority of competition stays on the righteous side of the line.

I do believe this.  In today’s world, cooperation would go farther than competition in order to bring about the greater good for all.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net .

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