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Where has all the competition gone?

In a recent poll conducted by Marylebone Cricket Club and charity Chance to Shine, almost two thirds (64%) of 8 to 16 year-olds said they would be “relieved, not bothered or happier” if winning or losing were not a factor in school sports. 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 it wasn’t so competitive.

In stark contrast, 22% of parents said they would have less interest in watching school sport if it was not competitive, and 89.3% of parents of 8 to 16 year-olds believed it was “important” or “very important” for their children to taste victory or defeat in sport.

Overall, 86% of the children surveyed, along with 97% of the parents, said that they felt some mums and dads were more concerned about winning than the children themselves!

So what does this all mean? Well, a lot of people, including Chance to Shine who ran the poll, are very worried that students simply do not seem to care if they win or lose in sports, which I agree is odd as it surely goes against most people’s natural instincts. But there could be several reasons why students’ competitive streak goes astray on the playing field – for one, they are so highly pressured in the classroom that maybe they purely view sport as a form of relaxation or fun as the poll suggested. Indeed 30% said that if its competitive edge was removed they would be fine with it as they still get to play.

Perhaps the more pressing reason is that PE has been pushed so much to the educational sidelines (excuse the pun), that it simply doesn’t allow teachers to get the most from their classes. Both parents and students are aware that PE is seen as another ‘soft’ or ‘vocational’ subject and is awarded less value than the traditionally ‘academic’ subjects through which you get the grades, a university place and hopefully a job. However, if PE was pushed back into the heart of the school timetable and the development of healthy competition evolved in a more natural way, students would be happier to up the stakes. PE enables students to learn vital life skills including teamwork and self-determination, which, everyone needs in order to succeed in life and at work, whatever they choose to do.

Hopefully the future of PE is looking up as the government recently pledged to award primary schools £150m per year in sports funding in an effort to restore PE into the school timetable.Chance to Shine is also launching a campaign to stress the importance of competitive sport and fair play in schools, and coaches will give assemblies and lessons to 420,000 children in 5,500 state schools.

Holly Dinsdale

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