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The Complex Emotions of Competition

Photo by Ben Hershey via Unsplash

Last updated on April 25, 2023

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, The Los Angeles Times Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Anastasia from Ukraine with the mentorship of Sebastian Yu from the United States. “Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice”. 

Enjoyment? Risk? Or even fear? Not many reflect on these emotions – they just think about achieving victory, despite their feelings.

Standing in my athletic stance, half-seated near the service line, I raised my racket in my right hand and prepared to attack my opponent. Outside of the bright green court at 13 meters, and the net behind which my opponent stood, I saw nothing. This was the moment when I felt an inexplicable range of emotions, both positive and negative. It was like I had reached the highest point of a mountain, and then all of a sudden, this mountain collapsed, and I flew down into the unknown.

Anticipation, thrill, fear, and pressure, all mixed into one wave that caught me and wouldn’t let go. The attempt to relieve the tremor in my knees dissipated into nothing. My rapid heartbeat had a voice in my ears. The excitement was so devouring that before my eyes, everything began to float. However, the sound of the beating shuttlecock against the string of my racket quickly snapped me back to reality. All that I felt before seemed to evaporate. My head began to clear, and my body felt like a feather and as swift as an arrow. I was able to repel my opponent’s attack and found an empty space on their field to score as well. After a couple of points, the adrenaline coursed through my blood, making my attacks more powerful, and my movements more accurate. This was the perfect phase of the game that I delighted in. I didn’t feel tired. I felt lightness and blessedness. I would repeat that point over and over again until I got sick of it.

After some time, when our score reached 18:19 in favor of the opponent, things got heated. My hands were sweating, so I couldn’t get a good grip on the racket. My hair was sticking to my forehead, and I had to take it off, but it continued to poke me in my eye. There was a little shortness of breath, but I was able to control it, so I had the first match at 23:21. In our second game, we continued catching up to each other. I thought that I was going to win. But, at the last moment, I overestimated my abilities and lost.

My anger was incredible because I knew that it was my mistake to underestimate my opponent and overestimate my strength. It was a bad moment for my morale, but my closest person, my mom, who had been watching the game all this time, kept me going. She continued to support me and said that I would definitely win the next match – I just needed to step up. This was really important to me, because it’s so relieving to share emotions with someone, no matter what those emotions are.

The third match felt as if it would last forever. My legs trembled, and at times I could not even make a lunge. At some point, I didn’t have the strength to jump and make a smash. Exhausted, I kept playing because I knew my loved ones believed in me, and I had to strive for them. I didn’t want to let my family down, so I did my best. My opponent scored 20 points, scoring a netting point. I tried to pull myself together with my 19 points, but my fear of losing was affecting me. There were cries of support on my right, and I tried to drown out my thoughts of failure with those words. Taking a deep breath, I prepared for my opponent’s next serve. Everything would be decided now. If he scored, it would be over. I just needed a little more strength.

His serve was sharp and high – in a word, perfect – but I didn’t give up. With quick movements, I moved to the backline and made a high forehand clear as best as I could. We threw the shuttlecock back and forth, which felt as if it would last an eternity. It was a game of endurance, and whoever held out longer would score a point.

When I made the drop shot on the net, the opponent made a lob to the backline. When I ran there, I made my forehand clear. Immediately rushing to the net, I noticed that my opponent wanted to net it. But it seemed I was exhausted by then, because no matter how hard I tried to run faster, I couldn’t. The shuttlecock first touched the surface of the net, changing its trajectory, and now it was not easy to reach. It would inevitably fly down the net, touching it, succumbing to the law of gravity. But no matter how much I wished that the shuttlecock would freeze for a second in the air, it didn’t.

I reached out as much as possible and made a giant lunge, but I failed. I didn’t win. I lost. Getting up from my knees and approaching the opponent, I gave him a high-five as required, and then went to the locker room. How did I feel? I felt bitterness, sadness, regret, pain, and anger. Anger that I couldn’t do more. Why did it have to happen then? I was so close to winning! My mother followed me into the locker room, came up to me, and hugged me. That was exactly what I needed.

“Mom, why? How did it happen?”

“Shh… You’re good. You did amazing. I’m proud of you. You gave 100 percent. You’ve done a great job, and this loss is only your experience. There’s no need to be obsessed with it. I mean, if you were winning all the time, you’d get bored, wouldn’t you? When I was watching your game, how bright your eyes were, I would like to play badminton too. Will you teach me to play later?”

“Haha, I’ll do my best.”

After experiencing defeat, one may feel devastated and shattered. Yet, these words from my mom helped me understand that at the same time, one should be satisfied. Everything is fine, and one should be pleased with themselves for having done their best. Who cares if you lost? The important thing is that you enjoyed the game.

Sometimes we forget this simple truth and why we play sports at all. It can turn into a daily boring chore, and we force ourselves to continue. But why? What is our goal? Is it to prove to someone that we are remarkable? All of that is nonsense. We must never forget what we are striving for and why we are making an effort. Even after losing, we have to gather ourselves and move forward if we want to achieve something. Our defeat is not a sign to quit, rather, it means we have to work even harder until we win. As long as we feel positive emotions and inspiration, we are doing the right things. We must always be mindful of ourselves and our emotions.

One Comment

  1. Kimberlee Poncé Kimberlee Poncé May 3, 2023

    amazing article, super descriptive

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