Competitive sport puts off schoolchildren - survey

Seven-year-olds competing in sport

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The majority of children would be happy to see the competitive element removed from school sport, a survey suggests.

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.

However, 22% of parents said they would have less interest in watching school sport if it was not competitive.

The poll, by Marylebone Cricket Club and charity Chance to Shine, 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.

Start Quote

It is worrying to see that so many children would be relieved to see competition removed from sport”

End Quote Wasim Khan Chance to Shine CEO
'Less anxious'

Asked how they would feel if winning and losing was removed from sport, 30.3% responded that "as long as I get to play I'm fine with it", one in five said "it wouldn't bother me" and one in 10 said "it would make me less anxious".

The figures have caused concern at Chance to Shine, which seeks to increase cricket participation in state schools.

"It is worrying to see that so many children would be relieved to see competition removed from sport," said the organisation's chief executive Wasim Khan.

"We want to teach children the importance of playing sport competitively and fairly and for them to see the benefits that it can bring to their lives."

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.

Children playing cricket Chance to Shine wants to stress the importance of competitive sport and fair play in schools.
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 last year that said there was not enough strenuous physical activity in school PE lessons.

In February, the government pledged to award primary schools in England £150m per year in sports funding in an effort to restore PE to the heart of the timetable and capitalise on the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics.

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

Coaches will give assemblies and lessons to 420,000 children in 5,500 state schools.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Healthy competition teaches us about the real world, why must everything always be so PC? Children don't need patronising, where everyone is a winner and there are no losers, we need motivation. Stereotyping surrounding school sports simply isn't true. Those of us less gifted at sports are not mocked or made to feel bad, people understand that academic and athletic abilities are equally important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    @328 dobiegr

    While I don't entirely disagree I do think that humans need an icon to look up to and try to emulate, think religion (if you really need to LOL).

    People need to see what mankind can achieve otherwise there will be no progress.

    It's a tricky one but holding up an individuals achievement is not a bad thing, competition is not bad for general self esteem it's everyone else's opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    What schools miss is that their are more than competitive sports out there. With activities like kayaking, climbing and cycling (to name a few) we can take out some of the competitiveness to allow for pupils to engage in other active sports.
    These sports are more about yourself then others and improving, although, it can be competitive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    There is only one number one, the rest of us have to put up with being 'also rans' - this does nothing but promote elitism.

    There are many sports which are not competitive, unfortunately few attract the attention of the government.

    It is interesting to note the most successful economies stress collective capability over individual achievement.

    Competition is bad for general self esteem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    I see that there are plenty of fat idle losers on here with their fablon biff chits. The teachers must love sport though - their strike falls nicely over the World Cup, fancy that!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    @324 John490

    Left wing teaching? Get a life...

    The fact is that without "taking part" there would be no winning anyway! We don't want to make our kids to jump off diving platforms onto concrete floors to make winners out of them we need to tell them that actually you won't always win but you should learn from your mistakes - it's how we evolve into better people...

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    @310. perfect_circle I wonder if it's possible that the children having been educated in a less harsh, more child-friendly environment, might grow up to create a society where people are kinder and more supportive toward each other? It might not necessarily be a bad thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    This is thanks to years of left-wing teaching where children were told that it was 'taking part' and not winning that counted. It is sad to think that these children are from a Nation that won two world wars, carved out an Empire the like of which has never been surpassed, and have won so many sporting accolades. How can they possibly be prepared for life with this sorry attitude?

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    I don't see competitive sports being the problem, it's what happens afterwards...
    As opposed to ridiculing the loser what should happen is encouragement to make them want to improve and then acknowledging that improvement as being something good!
    In professional sport we Brits like an underdog almost as much as a champion and its this spirit which we need to nurture, not just give in and fail!

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    they tried this rubbish with youth football now the younger leagues are pointless even tournaments when no winners are aloud ,come on let kids win or loose they soon forget it when they loose but when they win its priceless

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    there's room to teach the joy of exercise for exercises sake rather than making it all into a competition

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    A lot of people in the fitness industry seem to think that school PE is the key to solving the obesity crisis in this country. This will never happen so long as the thugs, who excel at PE, and their mates, the PE teachers, use it as an excuse to humiliate the less able. Judging by the rest of the comments on here, it looks like I'm not the only 50 year old to still be suffering the consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    I remember running around in the winter rain just for inevitable failure. Seems rather like regularly scheduled torture, that.

  • Comment number 318.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Lets scrap all school sports days and have the kids run up and down en masse with a bean bag, or skipping around aimlessly. In about 15 years time we will be bottom of all sports league tables, Olympics etc, slightly better than Malawi and Tibet!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Ask the same about anything. British schoolchildren are generally incredibly lazy. Just look at the adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    I can't help wondering if the people who claim that we all need to learn how to win and lose at sport were ever the last to be picked every time for teams? Or were they ridiculed for being rubbish, even by their teachers? Such humiliation does not go away overnight. I was good at cycling, aerobics and table tennis. Shame they didn't happen at my schools. But I was fit - not lazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Kind of defeats the object doesn't it...not competitive sport ?

    I don't mind kids not competing at sport...I don't mind kids not liking sport...but I mind people pretending that the outcome of sport is meaningless.

    Sport has to be competitive, or it's just exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Reminds me of the guy in back to the future who would never do anything incase he failed.

    Sorry but competition is what makes us better, evolve and grow. You often learn more about yourself when you lose then when you win.

    It prepares kids for life. No excuse that you are not sporty or a athlete it's the lesson of life that you gain from it that matters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    I know what you mean. All schools have a sports day (even if they half heatedly hold one) and yet few prize such things as debate clubs or poker tournaments, the latter not only improving maths skills exponentially but teaching us how to read others and how to calculate risk at the same time.


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