We’ve all heard our coach say, “We are going up against our biggest rivals tonight. Let’s go out there and beat them!” Our rivals may be our greatest enemy, but they are also our best motivators. Why else would we fight so hard to beat them? If we didn’t have any rivals, there would be no one to play against. Rivalries can actually boost our performance in sport, business, and everyday life because everyone has that drive to be the best. Multiple studies have shown that rivalry increases both effort and performance. “An analysis of competitive runners showed that they shaved more than four seconds per kilometer off their times when a rival was in the same race,” (Hutson, 2014).
Rivalry has also shown to increase motivation, group cohesion, and patriotism. Sounds pretty good, right? There can be a downside to rivalries when they get taken too far. If too much focus is placed on beating our rivals, we can develop something called “tunnel vision”. “When success is measured solely by how one stacks up against a single competitor, it can lead to a preoccupation that turns on the blinders to other competitive threats,” (Entis, 2015). By focusing on only beating our rivals, are we holding ourselves to the highest standard of greatness? If we pay too much attention to the outcome of beating a rival, we may forget about the process of how to get there. This can be discouraging and lead to feelings of hostility, resentment, and envy. Rivalries are important for competition, but if taken too far they can be detrimental. Next time you are going up against your rival, be thankful for them. That may sound silly, but they are the ones who push you to become better. Also, remember to keep your eyes open and be observant. Even if you are focused on your rivals, there may be another team/individual sneaking up in your blind spot. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the competition. A good rivalry can be fun and hopefully creates a positive atmosphere for your sport. Valentino Rossie once said, “The great fights with your strongest rivals are always the biggest motivation. When you win easily it’s not the same taste.” Keep this in mind the next time you step on the field, court, course, ski hill, rink, or track with your biggest rival!