Have you ever felt pressure that a co-worker would take your job, or that a fellow student behind you in the class ranking would suddenly overtake your spot?
What did you do about it?
If you are the fortunate soul in the coveted number one position, the first order of business is to take great pains not to lose whatever status or benefits come with said position. This becomes increasingly difficult when feeling pressure from an up-and-coming competitor figuratively breathing down your neck. Jostling to be top dog is especially apparent in highly competitive environments, like professional sports. Within these circumstances there is the prevailing school of thought that competition breeds success. The more people that there are competing, the more that they push each other to greater heights – we see this all the time in shounen anime and manga rivalries – and the entire team, or company, or scholastic institution, benefits.
Lately, I’ve been indulging in the pleasure of watching one of my favorite anime series: Touch. Revisiting Touch, along with renewing my love for Mitsuru Adachi’s storytelling, has allowed for a focus on charming, oft-heartbreaking, details that had passed me by during my first viewing experience.
“Uesugi, I’m waiting for you. Finally, this year, I’ll step on to Koushien’s soil with you…”
-Takeshi Kuroki, Touch, episode 10
Takeshi Kuroki is the pitcher at Meisei High. Following Kazuya Uesugi’s visit to the high school field, to pay his future seniors respect, Kuroki is shown working long after their official team practice has ended, fielding grounders at third base in preparation for his move to that position upon Kazuya’s arrival. Knowing that the team will improve with Kazuya pitching, Kuroki abdicates the mound and learns a different position. The key to understanding Kuroki’s decision lies in his conviction that his personal goal of succeeding in the Koushien tournament, as well as the team’s, becomes more attainable if he gives up his dream of being the ace pitcher. When you find yourself in a top position, as Kuroki did, it’s often hard to recognize that there is someone better than you waiting on the bench, and that helping them on the path to taking your place is a better decision for the team as a whole.
Plenty of teams choose the more competitive route. One can easily follow the line drawn from besting another player to taking their job as your own. However, the 2013 Major League Baseball season just ended, with the St. Louis Cardinals making it to their fourth World Series appearance in 10 years. The Cardinals apply Kuroki’s approach to all of its players and, as a member of the team, it’s somewhat expected that you will consciously train your replacement. Although the Cardinals fell to the Boston Red Sox this year, their 2013 achievements are significantly noteworthy and proof that the realization of a team goal can serve for just as much motivation as the competitive ambition of a personal one.
Where constant competition for roster spots can also accomplish great things – and make for great stories – so can a more team-oriented thought process. After all, what Takeshi Kuroki wants more than anything as an individual is to win Koushien, regardless if he has to give up being the ace pitcher to do so.
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