At Keystone, we compete with heart and sportsmanship
“A successful competition for me is always going out there and putting 100 percent into whatever I’m doing. It’s not always winning. People, I think, mistake that it’s just winning. Sometimes, it could be, but for me, it’s hitting the best sets I can, gaining confidence, and having a good time and having fun.”
After watching 15 nail-biting rounds of lower and middle school students spell words like cuirass, Arcturus, and cirrhosis, spectators looked at each other and said: “That was intense!” When last Thursday’s Spelling Bee concluded, 5th grader Siyona emerged as the champion with 6th grader Dev coming in second place.
Thank you to teachers Hannah Steward, Cindy Tyroff, and Lower School Head Mallory Matthews for serving as judges, and thank you to Upper School teacher David Caraway for studying all 375 words and correctly pronouncing the words in play. Thank you also to Ms. Matthews and Middle School Head Dr. Jennifer Wivagg for helping plan the event. Congratulations to all of the students who participated in the Spelling Bee!
The Bee itself contained many memorable moments. All of us smiled as third-grader Bobby did a double-armed fist pump every time he correctly spelled a word. I found myself captivated watching Siyona spell the words out with her right hand on her leg as she verbalized each letter. We collectively held our breath as students slowly enunciated each letter of a difficult word and ended on a note of intonation in the hope that they would continue to the next round. This was usually followed by a burst of applause and yells from schoolmates in the bleachers and on the floor. For that moment, we could all feel vicariously both the stress and the subsequent relief.
Perhaps one of the sweetest and most inspiring sights during the contest came when competitors gave each other high fives after spelling a word correctly. Please don’t get me wrong-these students wanted to win, and you could see their disappointment when they were eliminated. Nevertheless, they seemed to take real joy when one of their colleagues took on a hard word and succeeded.
Earlier in the week, this same gymnasium served as the setting for an 8th-grade girls’ basketball game. Whether they were dribbling, passing, or shooting, or wrestling with a challenging word, Cobras gave their all and performed with class and dignity.
And that may be one of the lasting lessons from events like the Spelling Bee, math contests, and Science Fair where students compete against their classmates. By its nature, Keystone offers a compassionate culture where children and young adults cheer on one another. There are few schools where students demonstrate so much support for each other and genuinely want the best for their peers. On any day in the classroom, around the quad, or in the hallways, you can hear words of encouragement from one person to another.
We usually reserve our competitive juices for interscholastic contests. Whether it’s the Academic World Quest team winning regionals 13 years in a row and the national championship last year, the high school team coming in first in the Mayor’s Cup last year, seventh and eighth graders taking the top awards in the Speak Up: Speak Out program, high schoolers producing award-winning literary magazines, or the new Middle School Robotics team in its first year going to the State Tournament in Dallas, Keystone teammates spend countless hours preparing to go up against squads from other schools, and their hard work pays off.
Similarly, individual Cobras put in the hours necessary to receive recognition at Science Fairs or French Symposiums, or create art and poetry that earn plaudits. Just this week, 12 Keystone students received honors in the 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
Just recently in athletics, all three middle school basketball teams finished in the top four of their respective leagues and advanced to post-season tournaments. Last semester, the varsity volleyball team finished an undefeated district season and ended as area champions. The varsity soccer team advanced to their playoffs, as well. Meanwhile, the seventh-grade volleyball team posted an undefeated regular season and finished runners-up in their post-season tournament.
Starting tomorrow for the first time, Keystone 3rd and 4th grade students will hit the hardwood and play basketball against teams from other schools. We look forward to watching them play over the course of their season. Go Cobras!
At times in the past, there’s been a national movement to eradicate competition in schools under the notion that it can be detrimental to children. However, tradition has shown that when children are taught how to contend with others while also demonstrating sportsmanship and class, it can elevate and improve their performance both in that area and in other elements of their lives.
Of course, I am not talking about cutthroat, win-at-all-costs matches where students tear each other down and adults behave badly. This can be counter-productive and destructive. All too often, we witness children burn out or suffer when their desire or that of their parents to win is taken to the extreme.
However, when children understand how to do the necessary preparatory work for a contest, try their hardest in the moment, and win or lose with dignity, they learn lessons that will serve them well in their educational journeys and careers.
So, as the adults in their lives, let’s continue to teach Keystone children and young adults the positive side of competition and help them recognize that no matter the outcome, the takeaways that come from giving your all and playing with heart can last forever.