Competition: the Light and the Dark
Competition is one of those double-edged swords that, to gain the most from, have to be handled with balance and finesse. Some say competition is your best friend, and wouldn't try to take part in an activity that didn't include it, because...whats the point? Others see the negative aspects of competition and avoid it all together. My aim is to pose a middle ground, taking advantage of the competitive spirit while avoiding the pitfalls of inevitable loss or worse - overly prideful victory.
I admit that I have used competition is a main motivator in the past. It is easy to do, and can be quite effective in the beginning. The problem is after the first win, with a competitive motivation, the desire to continue working hard dwindles because the students feel like they have arrived. The other downside is the obvious "What happens if we never beat all of our competition?", "we just weren't good enough/ worth it/ input degrading statement here". When competition is our main motivator, we tend towards feeling pompous and don't work as hard as we should, or feel completely worthless and lose our passion for the activity.
When we make a shift, however, towards being our individual and collective absolute best, a pretty wonderful thing happens. If we take first in a show but know we didn't have our best run, we don't settle for a silly trophy but understand there is still work that needs to be done. If we take second or third on the day but had the best run of our season, we can still hold our heads up high because we are proud of the performance we gave. The neat part is that while being our own absolute best is now the motivation for our performance, being in competition actually helps us to become our absolute best.
It isn't impossible, but groups not in competition with each other tend not to push as hard, thus not actually accomplishing becoming their absolute best. Take MPA, which pieces were performed better, the ones you took to MPA for judging, or what you played during your Fall concert? Again, not everybody needs competition to maintain excellence, but there is something about being ranked against others and a judging panel that allows us to give that extra bit of effort and truly become our best.
So, don't let competition be your main motivation, but don't throw it out either.