By Scott Ford

EVO Sports co-founder David Meggyesy reminds us that the word “competition” is derived from the Latin word “competere,” which means “to strive together.” Competere does not mean “vincere adversario,” which is Latin for “defeat your opponent.” Striving together and defeating your opponent are not the same thing. They are the two sides of the competitive coin.

Heads, we strive together, competing with each other to develop and improve. Tails, we compete against each other, striving to surpass one another and take home the trophy. Winners get trophies. Losers get plaques. I have some of each. We all do, because we all compete, whether we want to or not. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Trophies and plaques are relative.

Competition, however, is absolute. It’s woven into the fabric of our lives. Sports just make the fabric brighter. Or darker, as the case may be. How we deal with the bright side of competition is easy compared to dealing with competition’s darker, more destructive side. Sport psychology hasn’t been developing for decades to deal with the bright side of competition, but rather to deal with its destructive power.

Naomi Osaka knows the destructive power of competition as well as anyone in the world right now. It’s so destructive that she doesn’t know when she’ll compete again. She is lost in the dark side of competition.

“You are a loser” is what it feels like on the dark side of competition, and if you haven’t yet felt the agony of defeat, just up-level the competition and you will. Ask any champion about the thrill of victory, and they will tell you it was paved on the agony of defeat. (Props to Jim McKay)

It’s easy to see the bright side of winning and the dark side of losing. They are the opposite halves of zero-sum competition. Zero-sum means “one winner/one loser.” One trophy/One plaque, and zero-sum competition is the name of the game at the U.S. Open.

We all grew up in different fields of competition, and we’ve all been taught the developmental values of competition by teachers whose values are reflected in how they teach us to compete. Like our parents, like our school teachers, like our coaches, our gurus, our mentors, and last, but not least, ourselves.

Our teachers and coaches guided us along our developmental pathways, which, if you look closely, always involve competition. In sports, the top levels of competition are continuously being redefined from one competitive season to the next. The top level in the world of tennis competition is now in its second week of zero-sum competition, where the top levels of Men’s and Women’s competition is being redefined, and where winning increases paychecks and losing increases pain.

A recent NY Times article by Matthew Futterman highlights Naomi Osaka’s meltdown loss to teenager Leylah Fernandez in the 3rd Round of the U.S. Open, causing Naomi to reevaluate her tennis life. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing tennis for a while,” she said in a post-loss interview.

Question: Is she taking a break from playing tennis, or is Naomi taking a break from zero-sum competition? If all you get from a win is “relief,” and all you get from a loss is “depression,” then chances are pretty good that she’s not taking a break from tennis as much as she’s taking a break from the dark side of zero-sum competition.

How would you feel explaining your meltdown to the New York City press? Not that the NYC press gives a rip about a low-level meltdown in fly-over country. You, however, do give a rip. You feel the agony of your defeat because it’s yours. You lost the match. It’s your fault, and you’re a loser.

If you believe that about yourself, then both you and Naomi need some time away from competition, and perhaps some serious therapy. At EVO Sports, we don’t call it therapy. We call it Functional Integral Training, F.I.T. 

EVO F.I.T. consists of mental, emotional, and flow-state training practices designed to prevent competitive meltdowns by teaching you how to compete. Not how to play, but how to compete. 

There are plenty of good players out there who fall apart during competition. Not because they don’t know how to play the game, but rather because they don’t know how to compete. All they know is the external half of zero-sum competition. The half that identifies them as winners or losers. What most players don’t know is the internal half of zero-sum competition. The half that identifies them as Ego or Soul.

Who do you choose to play for you on the field of competition? Do you choose to compete with your ego, or do you choose to compete with your soul? If you need an example of the difference, watch a replay of the Osaka vs Fernandez match and you’ll see Naomi competing with her Ego while Leylah competed with her Soul.

Guess who didn’t melt down?



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