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How Competitive Should School Sports Days Be?

Article posted on: June 21, 2018

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Around this time every year, a debate over how competitive school sports days should be tends to erupt. 

On the one hand, competitiveness is at the essence of sport, and can encourage the development of some key life skills, such as resilience, fair play, team work and respect for others. 

Learning how to lose is important too – and better to do so at this stage of life, than further down the line, when there is more to lose than just a race.  Learning that it’s OK to lose and that it’s not the end of the world will help pupils to become more resilient adults. 

Learning how to win and, more importantly, how to win in the right way, is also an important lesson for young people to learn. The basics of fair play and respect for others will not only serve them well in school, but in future life too, making them more rounded, well-adjusted individuals. 

The competition can also prepare children to cope in competitive environments, which most will encounter at some stage in their lives and careers. It’s understandable that some may want to protect children from what can be a harsh experience, but surely it’s better to introduce the idea of competition at an early stage, when there is little to lose, than at a later stage of life when more is on the line?

Another consideration is the fact that, for some children, the sports field is where they shine and they have a right to be allowed to do so, especially when others are being encouraged to shine in more academic areas.

Allowing the sportier pupils to shine on school sports day doesn’t mean that the less sporty pupils will automatically be robbed of their confidence when they lose. 

But, perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to school sports days is whether it’s fun for the pupils. Because, whether it’s competitive or not, the more important thing is that it’s a positive experience for all, whether they win or lose. 

Positive experiences of sport will encourage young people to continue playing sport throughout their lives. Whereas a negative experience could put them off forever. 

And a positive experience does not necessarily mean winning. Or not competing with their peers. It is possible to lose and still have lots of fun – and it’s important that young people learn this lesson as early as possible!

So, to answer the initial question, whether a sports day is competitive or not, the most important thing is that it is an enjoyable experience for all. But allowing an element of competition offers some great opportunities for pupils to develop and does not have to mean that only those who win will be able to enjoy the experience. As with everything in life, it seems, balance is the key. 

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