Competitive Teams Improve Adolescent Life Skills
Any participation in competitive team activities, but specifically among adolescents, will result in literal winners and losers, but figuratively there are no real losers. Both teams can face setbacks with either outcome but are given the opportunity to learn and improve. Just because the team wins does not mean they had a perfect performance, and if the team loses that does not mean they did awful. They can learn and improve in both their activity specific skills as well as social and general life skills leading to a desirable increase in self-esteem of adolescents. Participation on a competitive team of any kind will benefit adolescents by arming them with social skills and life skills they need to navigate this period of their life.
The percentage of adolescents that are currently not engaged in any extracurricular activities is low, meaning only this small number of students would need to be convinced to become involved in a competitive team activity. In an analysis of adolescent extracurricular activity, Andrew M. Guest and Nick McRee state that around 75% of youths in grades 7 through 12 already participate in at least one extracurricular activity during the school year. Therefore if high schools required students to participate in a competitive team activity then a large percentage of adolescents would already be on board. Even if their current extracurricular is not of competitive nature, it can be assumed since these teenagers are willing to be involved, they will be open to competition based. This means only a small 25% of adolescents in this age range would potentially oppose starting a competitive team activity.
Mark Leary discusses in his chapter on self-esteem importance that psychologists have three main assumptions about aiming for positive self-esteem. The first is that it is universally accepted that people want to enhance self-esteem. Human nature pushes us towards wanting to feel good about ourselves. The second is that it is more desirable to have a high self-esteem, once again wanting to feel good rather than bad. The third is that raising a low self-esteem can improve the well mental wellbeing of a person as a result of a more positive mindset. People that have a high self-esteem have been found to have better social skills, be more adaptive, and have overall more socially acceptable interactions. The development of self-esteem through competitive activities is one way these activities are beneficial to adolescents.
The self-perception of success is what can help raise the self-esteem of adolescents despite the overall outcome of their teams event. According to a case study by Pedersen and Seidman on self-esteem development of adolescent girls, when the teen girls got involved in sports their self-evaluations increased to a more positive nature. In the case study they had the girls take assessments that measured their personal view of themselves overall before and after being involved. It was hypothesized and proven that the self-perception of success in a team sport can be connected to the global self-esteem of adolescent girls. The most important part of the findings is that self-perceived success pushes self-esteem in the right direction. This does not always mean success in the competitive match but could also be micro successes in personal goals. For example, answering more questions right during academic club than they did last time. Even if the teen still gets some wrong, they are happy with the improvement and success they are able to achieve. Or if they are struggling to improve, they can learn to change their mindset to be easy on themselves and acknowledge they are trying their best. Afterall, no one can excel at every task they take on. The positive self-evaluations in the study led to an increase in general positive self-esteem. Simple pride in ones actions can positively influence the way someone feels about themselves, and eventually lead to a confidence that will help them thrive.
Guest and McRee, in their study of extracurriculars, warn of the potential for any possible benefits of competitive teamwork to completely disappear if the activities are not properly constructed. An important way to avoid overpowering of the negative is by the proper guidance of coaches, club leaders and even parents or other family members. These influential adults in the adolescents’ lives need to be encouraging and willing to teach the life lessons that are available. Most importantly, school administration requiring the competitive team involvement need to carefully select the coaches and teams leaders. These positions should be filled with those that can maximize the benefits and positive outcomes of the participation. Constant tearing down of players and participants by poorly chosen coaches and leaders will harm the adolescents mentally instead of helping them.
An example of a well-appointed coach is seen in the case study of youth learning life skills through high school sport involvement written by Nicholas Holt, et al. This study followed a boys high school soccer team, players and coaches, through their academics and athletics to see if their sport participation benefited them in their day-to-day life. The head coach in this study valued the philosophy of developing personal relationships with the players. He was not just a coach there to do a job but took on the role of a mentor that all coaches should strive to be. He found it important to teach his players that even when one cannot change a situation, they can change their attitude about the situation. It is this concept that turns failure into success. While the game or match may go in the books as a loss, the lessons learned from the setbacks are positive outcomes in the midst of disappointment. A coach focused on teaching how to find the positives in that situation is important to teaching the valuable lesson needed of not dwelling in defeat. Very few people make it through life without experiencing a setback or some type of adversity. When this happens there is always the option to give up and succumb to the failure. If these adolescents are taught through competition how to cope properly and move forward from disappointment then in the future, they will be more likely to keep pushing towards success.
Guest, Andrew M., and Nick McRee. “A School-Level Analysis of Adolescent Extracurricular Activity, Delinquency, and Depression: The Importance of Situational Context.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 38, no. 1, 2008, pp. 51–62., doi:10.1007/s10964-008-9279-6.
Holt, Nicholas L., et al. “Do Youth Learn Life Skills through Their Involvement in High School Sport? A Case Study.” Canadian Journal of Education, vol. 31, no. 2, May 2008, pp. 281–304. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=508035517&site=ehost-live.
Leary, Mark R. “The Social and Psychological Importance of Self-Esteem.” The Social Psychology of Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Interfaces of Social and Clinical Psychology., American Psychological Association, 1999, pp. 197–221. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/10320-007
Pedersen, Sara, and Edward Seidman. “Team Sports Achievement and Self-Esteem Development Among Urban Adolescent Girls.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 4, 2004, pp. 412–422., doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2004.00158.x.