My question on Twitter was whether it was possible to do competition well or if it was always going to be problematic in reinforcing class norms that I'm trying to avoid. A few comments that helped me frame my thinking from @cheesemonkeysf:
I loved this reframing of competition as something that is done for the group and by the group to encourage collaboration and helpfulness, not winning at the cost of someone else losing. I also remembered some of the class vs goal competitions that I used to do, but haven't done much of this year. Those could be a great way to channel some of the restless energy that a class of 7th graders has in spades at the end of a school day. I still need to think about how to structure the activity so that helpfulness and cheering on are rewarded. There is definitely potential if the goal is to "get everybody over the goal line" for status issues to come up if a student is perceived to be holding back the group and preventing them from winning. Something like a participation quiz a la @samjshah might be helpful here to bring the focus back to cooperative behaviors.
I also thought the following strategy from @j_lanier was a great one:
Containing the competition to a segment of the class might allow those kids who clamor and benefit from competition to engage in it to their little hearts' content while allowing those who need a more relaxed approach to have it their way too.
Justin's final remark really hit home for me:
I think that I've been in the giving in reluctantly camp for a while, but recognizing students' natural interest in competition and channeling it in healthy ways is probably a better place to be. I'd love to hear about how you're using (or not using) competition in your class and any issues surrounding this topic that have come up for you.