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Are ‘non-competitive sports days’ really better?

SA School Sport

57% of parents with children at primary school say school sports day have become more “non-competitive” than competitive and that they prefer competitive sport.

Non-competitive sport means everyone joins as part of a team instead of being singled out. There are no school records to be broken and no tears on podiums. The survey, done by Families Online, found that 86% of parents prefer competitive school sports.

Under 300 parents completed the survey.

Sports psychologist Amanda Hills also says competitive sports at schools is better than sports with no element of competition.

“This to me that’s absolute nonsense,”  says Hill who adds that non-competitive sports does not teach children useful life skills.

“Children have to learn to lose as well as win. It is unfair not to celebrate the achievements of a sporty child, especially if they are not so celebrated in the classroom,” she adds.

At the same time, she concedes that too much competition may be debilitating for younger children.

Any sports day needs to be fun because children will remember any positive or negative feelings to do with sport from that age. If they have a negative experience, it could put them off doing sport for good,” she says.

However, another survey by Marylebone Cricket Club and charity Chance to Shine found that the majority of children would be happy to see the competitive element removed from school sport.

Almost two thirds (64%) of eight to 16-year-olds polled said they would be “relieved, not bothered or happier” if winning or losing were not a factor.

 The poll surveyed 1,000 children and 1,000 parents.

Although 84% of children believed experiencing winning and losing was important, the survey revealed that many would rather play sport for fun, or would be relieved if less was at stake.

This means there are no school records to be broken but also, no tears on podiums.

The same survey revealed that 22% of parents said they would have less interest in watching school sport if it was not competitive.

The survey also found that 89.3% of parents of eight to 16-year-olds believed it was “important” or “very important” for their children to taste victory or defeat in sport.

Just under two in five (39%) children said their parents would be less interested without a competitive factor.

Pushy parents

The poll also suggests that pushy parents who shout orders at their offspring from the touchlines are on the rise.

About 86% of the children surveyed, along with 97% of the parents, said that they felt some mothers and fathers were more concerned about winning than the children themselves.

Asked what was most important about school sport, both parents and children agreed that teamwork and exercise were the key aspects.

The study follows a report by education watchdog Ofsted in 2013 that said there was not enough strenuous physical activity in school PE lessons.

Chance to Shine is launching a campaign to stress the importance of competitive sport and fair play in schools.

So we all can see the problem. It is vital to give children who excel in sports recognition. At the same time, it is important to teach children the values of fair and good competition, which includes both winning and losing.
No child should experience sport through relentless public failure, nor should they be led to feel that beating everybody is the ultimate goal.

 

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