Teammate or Competitor

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others..."

 -Ayn Rand

Now I'm not a huge Ayn Rand fan, but I saw this and it got me thinking about a time in my life that was one of the most competitive.  I was playing soccer in Romania and on the team I was on we had several goalkeepers.  Now realistically, I was young and out of the five keepers we had, I was number 5, but I developed a fantastic relationship another one of the goalkeepers, who in my opinion would should have been 3 on the depth chart.  I think that both he and I were looked at as the bottom of the barrel because we were both young Americans. The top two keepers were both very good and seasoned professionals and the race to be number three on the depth chart was amongst myself and my American friend and another Romanian guy who'd come up through the club system.  

This isn't about the three Romanian keepers, but my American teammate.  As Americans, we have a different attitude and mentality when it comes to training.  We believed that the hard work was the way to get better and we trained early and often...three and four times a day.  We would show up an hour before training and stay an hour after...always working and always trying to get better.  There were somethings that he could do better than me and some things that I could do better than him.  We often joked if you put us together, you would have the perfect keeper.  

As time went on, we lived together in the same apartment and trained together.  At night we would do what was referred to as, "the workout from hell".  This was various timed sets of different types of calisthenics and weight lifting exercises.  These workouts would routinely go on for two plus hours.  When I look back at that now as a sports scientist, it was definitely not the best way to improve ourselves in any way and it increased out likelihood of injury.  Ironically enough, neither of us were injured, aside from my broken thumb, which was more of a fluke accident during a game.  

So flash forward after months of this training tempo.  The first team keeper breaks his leg.  The next game, a cup game, the backup keeper has the worst game a keeper could have and was taken out and shot...just kidding, he was immediately demoted.  This left the starter position open and the competition was on.  I remember my American friend and the other Romanian keeper getting a lot of reps and I was still spending time with the reserves.  I look back and there was not one second where I was bitter or upset by it.  I was so happy for him and it was like all of the hard work we were doing had paid off.  

As it turned out, the other Romanian keeper ended up getting the go ahead for the next game which was the equivalent of Monday Night Football in America.  The whole country watched and he had the game of his life.  We knew what this meant for us, but we were ok with that.  My American friend went to a few other countries on trial with some other big clubs, but he ended up back with me because our agent was not the best and he got kind of screwed, but that's another story.  I eventually ended up returning to the U.S. to pursue playing here and he stayed another season or two in Romania and ended up coming back to the US and playing for a few more years.  

When I look back at that time and think about it now, I had one of the best relationships with a person who I was in direct competition with.  We pushed each other to find the best that could be.  I wonder what would've happened if it wasn't like that.  Would I have developed as a player like I did or I wonder how he would have fared?  

Think about this situation and can you fit this in your life?  Do you have a coworker that you are in direct competition with?  If so, how well do you work together?  Do you do things to undercut their standing within the group or in front of your boss?  Maybe the roles are reversed?  Maybe your situation isn't at work.  It might be the politics of the neighborhood or school?  The PTA and school functions can be a savage environment.  Are you in competition with other parents there...and if so why?  

These things are FWP (first world problems) for sure, but we can do things to solve them.  Be transparent, be empathetic, be yourself without expectations of those other people.  If you feel that level of competition with someone else, take some time to get to know them and for them to get to know you.  When we open up communication and can be honest with each other, it will improve our relationships and it will truly make those competitors your teammates.