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Yesterday I read an interesting article in The Telegraph. It was about school sports days and discussed various aspects of the day such as the parents’ race, the new government initiative for ‘Games Festivals’ and the history of school sports however, the thing that concerned me, was a little bit on the future of sports days. It would appear that more and more schools are removing the competitive element of sport, the idea being that there will be no winners or losers; instead everyone will be winners just for taking part. This is already happening in schools across the country.
Now, I am a fairly competitive person. I feel that if I take part in a competition I should at least give it my best shot. If I win then I’m very happy. If I lose then I ‘m not so happy, but that becomes my driver to improve and do better next time.
But what if that competitive element is removed? What if, no matter how hard you try, you are never rewarded for your efforts? I have never been a great believer in “It’s not about the winning, it’s the taking part that counts” – usually said with great sympathy. Of course it’s about winning! Naturally children will be disappointed if they don’t win but as long as it is handled correctly by teachers and parents they will survive the ordeal. Losing should be seen as an opportunity to improve but not only that, it’s a way of learning to handle disappointment. Life is competitive and, by not allowing children to experience the feeling of disappointment when they are children, they will be less well equipped to deal with life’s disappointments in adulthood and, as we all know, there will be many.
There is, of course, another aspect to this. How do we find our athletes, rugby players, racing drivers and various other sportsmen and women of the future? In order to succeed in the sporting world you need to have a ‘killer instinct’. These guys go out with the vision of winning. They are focussed on the fact that they are going to win. They can’t let that belief slip, not even for a second. I find it hard to imagine Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton or Rory McIlroy saying to themselves “hey – it’s not about the winning – it’s the taking part!”. If that was the case then they would be as well taking a couple of tennis racquets to the local park for a knockabout, going for a nice drive to the coast or having a game of crazy golf at the beach but that’s not how it works. Their focus is on winning and nothing else. They may not always succeed, but winning is always the goal.
And so, my conclusion is that it seems the schools want to absolve themselves of all responsibility when it comes to dealing with disappointed children. It’s ok to allow the children to take part in the sports activities because that way the schools are seen to be doing something towards the problems caused by obesity and inactivity, but they don’t want to have to cope with the fallout caused by the elation of the winners and the disappointment of the losers ones who don’t win. Sadly I don’t think we are doing those children any favours.
If you would like to read the full article on school sports day, please click on the link below.