Moms Columns & Blogs

Character in competition

A few weeks ago, a pushing and shoving match broke out at a local football game. Anytime there is an act of poor sportsmanship, it’s newsworthy.  But, what about showing our children examples of character while competing?

A movie that I’ve used to powerfully demonstrate that character can be maintained while competing is “Akeelah and the Bee.”

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There are three main characters: Akeelah, Dylan, and Javier.  Akeelah has many things working against her.  She is from a very poor, dangerous neighborhood being raised by a single mom.

Dylan is the kid all of us have seen our children compete against.  He is capable, but stressed, due to a parent who is trying to live vicariously through him.

Javier is the kid we all hope our child emulates.  He’s funny and encouraging to all those around him.  Although he wants to win as much as anyone else, he knows that it’s possible to be a true competitor and still be kind to the competition. 

At the national spelling bee, Javier misspells a word, but instead of stomping off or crying, as many previous competitors have, he graciously bows to the audience which he has won over with his charming personality. He walks by Akeelah and says, “Last year, I placed thirteenth, this year, fifth, next year I’ll take it all, but this year, it’s your turn.”

Talk about a gracious loser!  And, I love how he takes a negative situation and makes it positive.  He focuses on how much improvement he made from one year to the next.  He’s competing with himself, striving to get better; yet, he still has the personal fortitude to cheer on a friend.

That scene captures how I want my daughter and my students to compete. I tell them: “Compete with yourself, let the others challenge you, but don’t be threatened by them.”

The lessons this movie teaches about character, competition and people skills are so powerful that I can’t think of another movie I would recommend more to moms who want their child to be a competitor who keeps things in the right perspective. 

Be advised that there are a few words of profanity in the movie. But, the language is true to Akeelah’s neighborhood, along with the incorrect grammar usage. But, Akeelah’s character is an intellectual heavyweight who powerfully demonstrates character under pressure.

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