Being unpopular made me tough as hell. I got used to incessant criticism, of myself and everything I did. It stopped bothering me to the same degree. When you are the class whipping girl, every aspect of your existence is a problem to someone. It taught me to pay attention to the misfits, the people on the fringe, the purple cows. After all, I was one of them. I still am.
To increases your chances of success you should compete on your strengths; therefore to increase the chances of your pupil's success they should be able to compete where they are strong. For some the traditional track and field events are what they are good at, others it's completing experiments/writing stories/building bridges out of newspaper.