Why Non-Competitive Sports Days Aren’t Great For Your Child

I don’t know about you, but I love a good sports day. Kids and adults getting out into the fresh air, getting some exercise and engaging in some healthy competition to round up a stressful and academically intense school year. But this year, a lot of parents (myself included) have been left a little dumbfounded by announcements that sports days are no longer competitive, and instead will be a ‘team-focussed event where individuals are not singled out.’ Apparently 56% of primary schools are trying this out this year, and it’s left parents scratching their heads. I for one don’t agree with the idea that sports days should be non-competitive – competition is healthy, a goal for children to work towards and, maybe most importantly, it’s part of life!

Changing Point Of View

This one follows on a bit from my last blog, which was all about ILOC and ELOC. If you’re not read that one yet, hop on over and take a look at this post. If you don’t have time – the general idea is that people have a certain way of viewing themselves and their control over their lives. It’s either:

  • ILOC, when you understand that you take things happen, you create your future and you work towards it, or;
  • ELOC, which means that things happen to you without you having any control, and there is no sense of personal responsibility.

See where I’m going with this? As parents and educators, we should be trying to encourage children to take that ILOC stance. To understand that the world is their oyster, and that they can do anything if they work hard at it. But if our children want to be an Olympic athlete and train really hard for that race in sports day, how are they going to feel when they find out they didn’t win, because there are no winners? Suddenly it doesn’t matter how hard they try because they physically cannot win, and so the ELOC mid set starts to creep in.

Competition is Healthy

How many times in life are we told that competition is healthy? It’s an old adage for a reason, and that’s because it’s true! A bit of competition can spur us on to achieve more than we thought we could, help us bond with other people competing and encourages us to do our best, not just what’s good enough. When children compete they become more inquisitive, research how to be better independently and learn to work with others to achieve success, and support others in their goals. All of these abilities prepare children for all sorts of situations in their adult like. Whether it’s applying to university, seeking a promotion or finding a cure for cancer, the ability to be competitive will give them an important edge.

Life Skills

Above all, one of the things I can remember my parents constantly saying is that I had to learn that life wasn’t always fair. Sometimes you try your very hardest, but someone else is better than you, and when that happens you need to be able to cope with loosing without losing self-esteem as well. Similarly, if you do win, you need to know how to win graciously. Understanding winning and losing and how to behave in both situations are not things we inherently know how to do – we have to learn them. And the only way we can hope to learn these skills is by going out and competing, and learning what it’s like to win, and to lose.

These are essential life skills that will set children up for life, make them more compassionate adults and help them strive for great things, instead of accepting defeat, so the younger they are able to learn them through activities with no serious consequences, the better. If you take away the competitive element of races (which by their very nature are a win or lose sport), then what are we teaching our children? That it doesn’t really matter if you excel at something, because everyone gets the same treatment regardless.

I could go on and on about the positive benefits of competition among children and why sports days are a fantastic way of encouraging children to shine at what they are passionate about. But instead I will ask you this – if we take away the competition of sports day, how fair is it really? Schools still give accolades to children who excel in academia, music, art, drama and more – how long before we take away those too? Without the reward of winning a prize for trying hard (and not just for showing up), how long before we have children who don’t see the point in these activities at all? If you’d like to chat more about this, or any other educational theories, get in touch with me today.


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