What is a sports rivalry?

Sports rivalry is defined as an intense competition between athletic teams or athletes. The intensity of the rivalry is on a continuum, varying from friendly competition on one end to fierce competition on the other end. Geographic proximity or frequent meetings in important races can lead to rivalries. A rivalry may be individual or team based. For example, if one team needs to beat another for the State Championship, all members may feel the pressure of competition: racers, teammates, and even coaches. The focus of this article is on individual rivalry.

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Do you have a sports rivalry? Is it friendly or fierce and obsessive? Friendly rivalry can motivate an athlete to do his or her best, but if a rivalry gets out of hand it can have a negative impact on racing. If you dwell on the performance of your rival or your performance relative to the rival, race after race, it is likely that your own performance will suffer. Why? Let’s look at an example of an obsessive rivalry.

Obsessive rivalry leads to faulty competitive thinking

A Cat 2 cyclist who is now retired gave me her thoughts on an obsessive rivalry that one of her competitors had with her: “I had a competitor who competed in the same region, and she was overly focused on beating me. She would show up at the race, and tell a good friend of mine that it was more important to beat me than to win the race. In the race this was obvious. She wouldn’t do any work. She would basically stick-to-my-wheel for the entire race. If we were in a criterium she would monitor my every action during the race. If I jumped, and went for a prime she was right there on my wheel, but would never, ever come around me. It was almost like she had this intense fear of losing to me. So, instead of racing her own race, she would compromise her own performance by sticking to me like glue! I hated that. For the most part, when I raced I was happy about cycling. I loved the sport, atmosphere, intensity, and competitiveness. But, in these races it felt so negative. Sometimes, due to her obsessive attitude, and tactics it would slow the race down. She was unwilling to even take a single pull. Sometimes I would beg her, “Just take one pull, and we can make a breakaway.” She would never do any work, so whenever I raced against her it came down to a field sprint. She had a decent sprint, but I would usually beat her. I never understood. What was the point? Race to come in fourth, fifth or sixth? Why not race to get a breakaway, and then she could’ve at least been guaranteed second. I could rant forever. It was just so frustrating. She was really her own worst enemy in the race.”

I agree with this cyclist. If the competitive energy and drive are directed toward beating one person, then one is not focused on the best possible placing in the race. There is a good chance that this will have a negative impact on race outcome. It truly is faulty thinking to be obsessed with beating one individual when there are many other participants in the race to be beaten.

By yanam49

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