From time to time I think about my experience with spelling, and something that always stands out to me is I never won. Fourth place is still excellent of course, but I still have the feeling of being so close to winning, but not close enough. What's the point if you spend years and years of your life on spelling and don't come out on top? Why even try?
At this point we must remind ourselves that the spelling bee is not about winning. Okay, technically it is--you go to a spelling bee to try to win. But even if you don't win, you come away with so many other things that will be much more important than winning ever was. The mission statement of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is not "to determine a champion." In fact, they state that "Our purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives." If that isn't enough to show that there's more than just winning to get out of spelling, allow me to elaborate. I must first say that this is not intended to discredit winners in any way--winning is great, and all of the previous winners are incredibly talented and amazing people. The purpose of this post is merely to discuss the question "why try" under the assumption that winning is far from guaranteed.
Win or lose, you will come away from the bee with so much knowledge of how English works. I don't just mean in terms of grammar either. You will have witnessed firsthand the patterns of borrowing other languages' words into our own language, sometimes adapting them to seem more English, sometimes leaving them as they are. You will have witnessed the way parts of words come to form new words all their own. You will have witnessed the unique chaos of words, how each one travels through languages and time with so much peace and order but at the same time no peace or order at all. That is truly why you should try, even if winning seems unrealistic.
You will also learn to set goals and achieve them regardless of what place you come in. My first year at the national spelling bee, I thought making championship finals would be impossible. I made it my goal anyway, and making it my goal enabled me to achieve it. It taught me that I can do almost anything if I set my mind to it. Goal setting also develops work ethic and study skills while you're in the process of working towards your goal.
Anyhow, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but even if you don't win, do not despair. You will reap countless benefits from the bee whether you place 150th or 1st.