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Performance Competitions

by Ron Kurtus (revised 10 August 2016)

Performance competitions are those where the criteria for winning or losing is based solely on the performance of the contestants. Competitors cannot directly influence or hinder the performance of their opponents. In fact, the contestants may nor may not know about the other's achievement.

Examples of performance competitions among humans include applying for a job and playing golf.

The amount of knowledge among opponents determine the type of performance competition. In a pure performance competition, there is no knowledge of the opponent's capabilities or progress. In an affected performance competition, contestants may have knowledge of each other's reputation and progress. This knowledge can affect performance.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Pure performance

In a pure performance competition, you may be aware that there are other competitors, but you know nothing else about them. Your own performance is evaluated by judges who determine the winner.

The prime example of this type of competition is when you apply for a job. Typically, you only know that others may be also applying but have no idea of who they are. Who wins the job will be determined by the hiring manager.

Likewise, the results of examinations for entry into a college are based solely on your performance.

In a pure performance competition, you need to gather information about the rules and necessary parts of the competition. If applying for a job, you should find out about the company. If taking an examination, you should find out what material is being covered.

Then you need to prepare yourself to perform at your peak.

Knowledge about your opponents

Knowledge about your opponents can affect your performance. Your knowledge of their reputation can affect your confidence and motivation. Your knowledge of how well they are doing can affect your effort.

Reputation of competitor

The reputation of a competitor can affect your own performance or effort. It gives you an idea of your chances of winning and may affect your effort.

If you were entering in a weightlifting competition and know that your opponent has lifted more weight than you ever had, the information may discourage you and result in a poor performance.

Likewise, if you were entering in a spelling-bee competition, and you knew that your opponents had never done as well as you in such a competition, you may be highly confident of your ability to win.

Sometimes, though, you can become too confident and actually not perform as well as your could.

How well they are doing

Seeing how well your opponents are doing in the competition can affect your performance.

If you are in a race and you see your opponent slightly ahead, you will probably give an extra effort to catch up and take the lead. But if your opponent is too far ahead, you may become discouraged and even give up. Sometimes giving up can have negative consequences.

For example, John was running in a track meet race and realized his rival Harry was way ahead and looked like he would easily win the race. John became so discouraged that he just gave up, stopped and walked off the track.

But then Harry suddenly got a cramp in his leg and was forced to quit the race. If John hadn't been so discouraged at the possibility of losing to his rival and would have continued trying, he would have won the race.

In school, you may know what grades your friends are getting. This may either encourage you to do better, so you can surpass them, or it can discourage you so much that you give up and even fail the class.

Opponents' knowledge about you

Likewise, your opponents have knowledge of your reputation and can see how well you are doing in the competition. Both of these items can either motivation them to try harder or discourage them and lower their performance.

But an important strategy in trying to win an affected performance competition is the fact that you have some control over the perception others have of your abilities and progress.

You can present yourself as highly confident and imply that you have a reputation of being a top competitor. This might discourage some opponents from performing at their best. Or you could present yourself as being completely incompetent, causing your opponent to become overconfident and not take the competition seriously.

Sports teams will often become angry over some comments an opponent has made about their ability to the newspapers. The coach will put the article on the bulletin board for all the players to see. This information will motivate the team to try harder to defeat their opponent in the upcoming game.


A performance competition is one in which each contestant tries to do his or her best. If you have no knowledge of who your opponents are, it is called a pure performance competition. If you have knowledge about who your opponents are or how they are doing, it is called an affected performance competition. That knowledge can affect your performance, as well as the performance of your competition.

One thing to realize is that you have some control over the knowledge that your competitors get about you. Using your knowledge of the competition, you can win by increasing your effort or discouraging your opponents.

Push yourself to your limit

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