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Kansas 4-H Tip Sheet

April 15, 2019

Youth Development and Competition a Balancing Act

Submitted by Pamela Van Horn

As the calendar moves forward into summer months our thoughts turn to county fairs and its purpose. Competition has been part of 4-H since the beginning; however sometimes we wonder, how does youth development fit when the competition overshadows the outcome. We can start by understanding competitive events are a valuable part of demonstrating mastery and provides an opportunity for youth to receive evaluation and feedback on their project. It is from participation in competitive events which helps 4-H youth learn to make and define decisions and public speaking abilities. Furthermore, youth gain knowledge and skills while competition offers opportunities for learning sportsmanship and getting along with others.

In competitive events, 4-H cannot overlook the value of the learning process the youth has gone through in making or raising the project to only focusing on winning the top prize. Many principles determine the youth development aspect of the project such as age appropriateness, skill improvement and learning progression. Through 4-H’s mission, unique strategies and opportunities are provided to engage youth in reaching their full individual potential through partnerships with caring adults. Although, this learning needs to reflect the young person’s maturity within the project area rather than the adult’s abilities, therefore, when competition is the main purpose of the event such as the fair, it must be understood that competition in these 4-H events is secondary to the education and development of the youth participants.