Cooperation vs. Competition - Rethinking Youth Sports

Christian leaders use every opportunity to remind us that we as Christians should be cooperating together instead of competing so that the world would know that we are Jesus’ disciples. Hence, I ask you: how can we promote this indispensable concept in our daily lives?

One of the effective ways to encouraging cooperation is to adopt activities and sports games where the word ‘cooperation’ is the name of the game.

Whenever Christian youth groups come together to play against each other, I sense that antagonism among the teams rises and each cheering group starts “bashing” the other. I’ve participated and watched hundreds of competitions in my life and I believe this aggressive mood is always the case during such events. The reason is charmingly simple: in order for a soccer team to win the first prize, it should defeat its opponents at any cost, using any means possible. There can be one winner and many losers, and losers go home feeling low with a grudge in their hearts.

So I say to myself, why do Christian groups encourage such sports where “defeat” is the name of the game? Because of fierce competitions, some Christian players get so focused on winning that they even perform unsportsmanlike-like acts against their Christian friends or use foul language or psychological pressure and even choose to lie on the field for the sake of becoming the undefeated winner.

After a long and tiring sports day and when all cheers have subsided, I used to go home with a gloomy spirit thinking whether we – as Christians – accomplished anything good on that day. I felt that instead of bringing the youth together, such events pushed the youth away from each other and placed them in rivalry camps.

The spring of 2008 I had the chance to attend Leaders Training organized by World Vision. The topics ranged from organizing camps to reaching out to troubled youth. However, there was one topic that was completely avant-garde to me. The name of the class was "Cooperative Games." I couldn’t believe that someone had already thought of this idea before. The enthusiastic speaker introduced the exciting idea of cooperative games and explained with great vigor that idea behind it was to invent games where everyone was part of the main team and all participants had to work together to accomplish a specific mission.

On the competition field the Machiavellian philosophy of the end justifying the means is extremely difficult to ignore. Sometimes I wonder whether I am the only person who feels such enmity and jealousy among our own Christian youth groups during competitions. If we all recognize the antagonistic mood, why do we go on organizing such sports events? Isn't it time that we invented sports and activities where the name of the game is cooperation instead of competition, fellowship instead of unfriendliness, bonding instead of dislike?