What Competition Do You Think You Could Win?

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What Competition Do You Think You Could Win?

What is something you’re really good at? Consider academics and athletics, of course, but also any offbeat hobbies and talents at which you excel, no matter how slight they seem.

Is there a competition you could enter to show off your skills? If not, should there be? (Before you answer, you might want to check what’s out there, since official competitions exist for everything from playing air guitar to creating artful manicures, spitting cherry pits and chasing cheese down a hill.)

In “Playing Against Type,” Kenneth Sturtz writes about another offbeat competition, one that was popular in the early 20th century and is now being revived:

In the hands of Hunter Shaffer, the sentence you are reading right now would take seven or eight seconds to type. This entire article would be done in just over seven minutes, and a recent Sunday Styles print section of The New York Times would take about 86 minutes.

During a recent online competition, Mr. Shaffer and eight other competitive typists watched as numbers on the screen counted down and gave way to the word “Go.” A leaderboard showed the competitors’ progress, accuracy and words typed per minute.

It was over in about 60 seconds, but Mr. Shaffer’s performance gnawed at him. Normally he would have jockeyed for first place, but nerve problems in his left hand had forced him to type one handed for a while.

Over several hours, Mr. Shaffer repeatedly finished just behind a teenager in the Philippines and a friend from Virginia, despite typing as fast 189 words per minute.

Competitive typing, which peaked in popularity in the first half of the 20th century before fizzling out, has found a new home online. A devoted community has developed around the hobby, which has become increasingly popular with teenagers and 20-somethings.

The article mentions the community that has taken shape around this hobby:

Competitive typing may have become more popular in recent years in part because of the online messaging platform Discord, which offers a simple, convenient way for users to communicate with other typists. But it remains a niche hobby with a tight-knit community.

Kathy Chiang, 29, who lives in Los Angeles, picked up on the uniqueness of the typing community almost immediately, partly because of her career in gaming.

“It’s really interesting to stumble upon a community like that, that I hadn’t been aware of at all,” she said.

An avid video gamer since childhood, Ms. Chiang was studying computer game science at the University of California at Irvine when a co-worker noticed how fast she typed and encouraged her to test herself on a typing website. Ms. Chiang became hooked.

In addition to being one of the fastest typists, she discovered she was one of the few women in the community, but said she was generally welcomed.

Although she eventually withdrew from competitive typing because of wrist injuries, Ms. Chiang said she found the typing community to be a friendlier and less serious environment than the gaming community. Part of that could be because of competitive typing’s relatively small reach.

“So, it’s kind of like a sport or an esport or a video game in the really early stages, where everyone feels like they’re part of this grass-roots movement,” she said. “It seems like this special thing that some people want to keep secret and special and tight-knit.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • How would you do in a competitive typing competition? Why?

  • What special skills and talents do you have? Are there competitions you could join to test your abilities? If not, should there be? What would this competition look like?

  • Have you ever discovered, like some of the typists you read about, that you have a hidden talent or special ability that others do not? If so, what is it and how did you find out that you have it? Did someone else point it out?

  • Have you ever made friends or found a sense of community through a talent or interest, the way these typists have? How does your experience compare with theirs?


Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.