Competition is everywhere. We find it at work, school, in relationships, between businesses and in sports. So donít misunderstand me, competition is a good thing as long as we can discern between healthy and unhealthy competition.

I was recently at a basketball game - watching, not competing. A friend of mine was full of excitement - yelling at the referee, yelling at the coach, the other team, the other fans, some of our fans, the players and even their own child.

"Hey, it's only a game." I said.

The reply, "I can't help it I'm very competitive, I hate to lose."

To which I replied, "You're not playing!"

I guess that was the wrong thing to say, because we were never really friends after that.

Kids putting their heart and soul into a game, leaving everything on the field/court; definitely healthy. Parents trying to live out their competitiveness through their children - definitely unhealthy.

I recently joined a gym. The class that I attend is intense with a diversified clientele. The great thing about this class is that you only compete against yourself. You strive for your personal best. So it was funny the morning I showed up and saw that we were going to have a competition. Nothing major we would run for three minutes then jump rope for three minutes, five times. Whoever got the most consecutive jump ropes collectively would win a prize.

I'm not sure what came over me, but the thought of a prize just did something to me. I immediately started sizing up the competition. I sought out my greatest competitor did a little mean mugginí and prepared myself to win.

I ran, then I grabbed the rope and checked my competitor's score - impressive. I started to jump and I kept jumping, concentrating on each jump. I couldn't miss, I had to win. All I could think about was the prize.

The whistle blew. I ran again, then came back and jumped again. My legs are burning, my heart is pounding. All I can think about is the prize.

I ran again, then I picked up my jump rope and started to jump. Everything hurts now. My heart is beating out of my chest my breaths come hard and short. I'm a little dizzy, but I stay focused. I can barely pick my feet up off the floor. All I can think about is the prize.

After another round I can't breathe at all. I look at my competition and come to the conclusion that I have no competition because, no one is competing with me. Worse, no one even knows I'm here. They all look as if they are enjoying themselves. Which I am not.

My chest hurts, Iím gasping for breath and I realize that Iím that person. You know, the one that is overly competitive and takes things too seriously when everyone else is just having fun. I realize this little competition doesn't matter to anyone here but me. Huh!

Sheesh! I took a break.

Doing your personal best to be the best you can be; definitely healthy. Being overly competitive when it just doesn't matter. definitely unhealthy.

By the way, I did win that day. My prize? A fruit smoothie.

Oh yeah, and I couldn't walk for three days afterward.

Jackie Melvin is a former stay at home mother whose position was phased out when her three kids got driver's license and learned to enjoy fast

food restaurants. Today, she is a professional volunteer, substitute teacher and member of the E-T's community columnists. She can be reached at jmelvin5@msn.com.