A lot of people imagine rivalry as a form of poor sportsmanship. There exists somewhere the ideal athlete that will only ever focus on their own game and always applaud the success of their competitors. But, is rivalry always a bad thing? Rivalries, like most aspects of life, have their good sides and their bad sides. There are different types of rivalry that exist between athletes, siblings, professionals and even friends. There can be healthy rivalries and unhealthy rivalries and while an unhealthy rivalry can destroy relationships a healthy rivalry can improve relationships and encourage mutual improvement.
The first thing that needs to be addressed before you can understand the benefits of rivalry is the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy rivalry. A healthy rivalry concerns two individuals that compete with each other as well as respect each other. They can both acknowledge that the other person is talented at what they do and they can hold a conversation without mentioning any sort of competition between them. These sorts of rivalries are based on an appreciation for competition that outweighs a desire to win. They enjoy taking part in competition just as much or more than they would enjoy demonstrating their skill. On the other hand, an unhealthy rivalry is based on individuals desiring victory and dominance above all else. These sorts of individuals would be willing to act illegally in order to succeed in a competition and are often fueled by a desire to prove that other people are less rather than prove themselves as more. Unhealthy rivalries lead to jealousy and anger and unhealthy rivals will have a strained if not toxic relationship.
In many team sports, a healthy rivalry contributes to a sense of camaraderie that often bonds a team together. Football especially is a sport where regional teams have very particular rivals. An entire village, town or city might feel as though they are competing against others simply because a football team that represents them is competing. A recent example of this occurring would be the case of Lancashire protesting the colours of their football team’s sponsor 888 because it resembled the colours of their rival team Blackpool. 888, in accordance with their #FansFirst programme, did inevitably change the colours of the Deepdale stadium and this was an incredible case of sportsmen and fans being brought together by rivalry. Rivalry can motivate a team to be more communicative and form deeper relationships with each other. However, it can be a bit difficult for the same result to be achieved when you have independent athletes competing with each other, such as in golf. One you have a case of one person competing with another it can often be difficult to separate your emotions because responsibility for success or failure lies solely with the individual.
Golf has some particularly great rivalries, and one particularly great rivalry is that between Spieth and McIlroy. They are an example of a rivalry done right. They feed off of each other when they compete and have great respect for each other as athletes. They inspire each other to be better because they enter their competitions with a sense of humility. Humility is what inspires competitors to improve. If you have respect for your rival and congratulate them instead of resent them for their ability to match you then you will find yourself naturally inspired to practice, improve and continue to be their rival. This is the sort of mentality that will inevitably lead you to success.