Don’t Settle for First Place in a Second-Class Field

Some nail techs are reluctant, apparently, to compete at all because they feel they have no chance if the top competitors are participating.

When Greg Louganis first made the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 he was 16-year-old diver, literally still wet behind the ears. He place second that year and led sport writers to comments on his promise, “He has the capability to become one of the greatest divers of all time.” Indeed he did. By the time he retired in 1988 he was the most honored diver in sports, the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in springboard and platform diving (and this was when he was competing with divers half his age). Louganis was virtually unbeatable.

I was thinking about Greg Louganis as a debate raged in competition circles about whether the very top competitors should be allowed to continue competing or should be allowed to win key competitions repeatedly. There are many would-be competitors and low-ranking competitors who’d like a more “fair” chance at winning the top spot.

Some nail techs are reluctant, apparently, to compete at all because they feel they have no chance if the top competitors are participating. Oddly enough, even in a field like nails competitions, where your youth and physical ability are less important than in sports, the top competitors still don’t usually compete year after year. Competing is a costly endeavor, what with the travel) for you and a model), plus you have to have the indulgence of your clients, your family, your boss. And although many current and former competitors have aligned with product manufacturers as a result of their high profiles on the competition circuit, it’s still not exactly like wining a Nike endorsement contract. These competitors still have to go back to their day jobs.

Most competitions have solved the issue by having several divisions for competitors, including one for those who have ever competed, and a category for those who rank in NAILS’ top 25 or who have placed high in previous competitions. I agree there ought to be a student or novice competition, but I think it’s wrong headed to “disqualify” the top competitors. If I were competing I’d want to put my skills against the very best. How satisfying would it be to win knowing that you didn’t go up against the best in the field? Conversely, how satisfying would it be to win, maybe against all odds, against the best the industry has to offer?

A consistent winning competitor shouldn’t discourage others, rather she (or he) should inspire the rest of the field to what can be accomplished when you hone your craft, you’re disciplined, and you push yourself to the top of your field. 

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