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Sports Day and Competition

1
It’s sports day season and 57% of parents with children at primary school report that their child’s sports day is non-competitive. Competition is a part of life and so honesty is important. There’s no point avoiding competition only for children to enter the ‘real’ world of work etc. and be smacked with a hard dose of reality. Are schools right to banish this competitive element from infant sports days, or should every child have their opportunity to shine?
The reality of sports day
At my eldest’s school, they don’t have a traditional
SelfishMother.com
2
sports day in the infant’s school. Instead, the children are divided into teams and rotate around a selection of events. While these events are all inclusive and non-threatening, they do not contain any hint of competition in children. Some activities do promote teamwork, but generally, the focus is on participation rather than winning.
Play to strengths
I appreciate that it’s important to include all children, but isn’t there also some sentiment of fairness missing here? There may be some children who don’t excel in the classroom but do on the
SelfishMother.com
3
sports field. Surely, they should be allowed their one day to shine in front of teachers, friends and spectators? My son is the youngest in the class and is almost a year younger than the oldest child. It’s likely that he is behind the older children in reading and writing due to the age difference, but he might excel at running and sport.
How would I organise it?
My youngest had a fantastic sports day at nursery last week. The children were in teams and competed against each other in various relay races. They were simple races. There were all
SelfishMother.com
4
standards of ability, and no children were excluded. The crowd cheered all the children and the strong runners were able to excel, and the slower children were still very much part of the team. It didn’t matter who was the fastest or the slowest because they all supported each other, but there was a hint of competition without it being intimidating. There was still a winning team which teaches children to deal with and accept defeat.
Competition in children
Competition in children can develop team-work, resilience, leadership, respect and
SelfishMother.com
5
sportsmanship. These are all key life skills. It’s important for parents to support their children during competitive activities. We need to communicate that it’s okay to lose and that it’s important to learn from sporting experiences. I’ve heard about schools that let the children choose whether to participate in races. I don’t think this is a real life lesson. Children won’t be able to choose whether they participate in maths or reading in the classroom, so why are they being given a choice on sports day? It feels confusing and
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contradictory at the very least.
I’m not suggesting the Olympics
I’m not saying schools need to create their sports days to purposely exclude some children and push the competitive stakes so high that half the school go home crying because they lost. I think there should be a combination of activities with a healthy dose of competition involved. A traditional egg and spoon race is competitive because there will be a winner. However, it’s not necessarily the fastest child who will win. It requires balance, stealth and concentration and the slowest
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runner may win. A sprint may not be easy for all children. Yet, combined with a range of activities, such as throwing or a sack race, different skills will be required. In my opinion, it’s about a combination rather than exclusion of activities.

The truth is in life; not everyone will be a winner all the time. I’m not saying we have to drill that into children the minute they set foot in school, but realism is important. Surely, it’s about managing expectations and encouraging some form of competition in children and sport. Parents can’t

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8
ensure their children avoid all competitive situations forever, it’s just not the real world. Sports Days should be all-inclusive, fun, competitive and with a mix of a variety of activities. How else are we going to find the next Olympian?
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Sports Day and competition

- 5 Jul 19

It’s sports day season and 57% of parents with children at primary school report that their child’s sports day is non-competitive. Competition is a part of life and so honesty is important. There’s no point avoiding competition only for children to enter the ‘real’ world of work etc. and be smacked with a hard dose of reality. Are schools right to banish this competitive element from infant sports days, or should every child have their opportunity to shine?

The reality of sports day

At my eldest’s school, they don’t have a traditional sports day in the infant’s school. Instead, the children are divided into teams and rotate around a selection of events. While these events are all inclusive and non-threatening, they do not contain any hint of competition in children. Some activities do promote teamwork, but generally, the focus is on participation rather than winning.

Play to strengths

I appreciate that it’s important to include all children, but isn’t there also some sentiment of fairness missing here? There may be some children who don’t excel in the classroom but do on the sports field. Surely, they should be allowed their one day to shine in front of teachers, friends and spectators? My son is the youngest in the class and is almost a year younger than the oldest child. It’s likely that he is behind the older children in reading and writing due to the age difference, but he might excel at running and sport.

How would I organise it?

My youngest had a fantastic sports day at nursery last week. The children were in teams and competed against each other in various relay races. They were simple races. There were all standards of ability, and no children were excluded. The crowd cheered all the children and the strong runners were able to excel, and the slower children were still very much part of the team. It didn’t matter who was the fastest or the slowest because they all supported each other, but there was a hint of competition without it being intimidating. There was still a winning team which teaches children to deal with and accept defeat.

Competition in children

Competition in children can develop team-work, resilience, leadership, respect and sportsmanship. These are all key life skills. It’s important for parents to support their children during competitive activities. We need to communicate that it’s okay to lose and that it’s important to learn from sporting experiences. I’ve heard about schools that let the children choose whether to participate in races. I don’t think this is a real life lesson. Children won’t be able to choose whether they participate in maths or reading in the classroom, so why are they being given a choice on sports day? It feels confusing and contradictory at the very least.

I’m not suggesting the Olympics

I’m not saying schools need to create their sports days to purposely exclude some children and push the competitive stakes so high that half the school go home crying because they lost. I think there should be a combination of activities with a healthy dose of competition involved. A traditional egg and spoon race is competitive because there will be a winner. However, it’s not necessarily the fastest child who will win. It requires balance, stealth and concentration and the slowest runner may win. A sprint may not be easy for all children. Yet, combined with a range of activities, such as throwing or a sack race, different skills will be required. In my opinion, it’s about a combination rather than exclusion of activities.

The truth is in life; not everyone will be a winner all the time. I’m not saying we have to drill that into children the minute they set foot in school, but realism is important. Surely, it’s about managing expectations and encouraging some form of competition in children and sport. Parents can’t ensure their children avoid all competitive situations forever, it’s just not the real world. Sports Days should be all-inclusive, fun, competitive and with a mix of a variety of activities. How else are we going to find the next Olympian?

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Corporate to Kids

Who: Sarah - Queen of self-deprecation Job: from corporate HR career to Mum, Writer and Blogger Children: two boys with a 13 month age gap!! Obsessions: writing, Haribos, rainbows, coffee, fizz

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