4-H Competition Philosophy

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Dr. Richard Clark

As we reach this time of year, many of our 4-H members will be involved in various types of competitions. These include things such as public speaking, skill-a-thons, animal shows, portfolios, and quiz bowls. It is important that we have the right philosophy towards competition if these activities are to be a positive experience for youth. Competition is not just focused on winning. The goal is to increase one’s personal abilities and challenge youth to do their very best. I think the following quote from Virginia Extension expresses this philosophy well.

“4-H programming with youth is guided by a process that includes goal setting, cognition, practice, and performance. The performance stage is when members demonstrate what they have learned through various 4-H activities and events, including competitions. Competition can be an individual event against a standard (Danish System), an individual event against peers (Standard System), or team vs. team competitions.

When planned and conducted appropriately, competition experiences enhance positive youth development and prepare youth with positive competitive knowledge, skills, attitudes, and aspirations that can lead to success through life.

Team competitions provide opportunities for youth to develop the interpersonal, leadership and cooperative skills necessary to be successful in the interdependent, global society of the 21st century.

Youth must be developmentally ready to handle competitions. Being recognized for performance in comparison to others can be a strong motivator for many older youth, but a deterrent to younger youth.”

Remember, whether you are a volunteer, parent or 4-H professional, help our 4-H members understand that improvement of one’s personal best will always be the goal … not just winning a contest.