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 111.

    The problem with school sports is that all the kids know by year one, who is going to win the 100m sprint ect.

    So infact all competition does in schools is highlight who is the best, labelling the other 99% as runners up.

    How good is that for developing minds.

    Best stick to team sports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Nothing wrong with sport.
    Nothing wrong with winning at sport.
    It is when individuals or third parties start implying superior virtues to people who win at sport that the difficulties arise.
    Nobody is so special that they cannot assume a decent humility when successful.
    This is the principle that underpins what is called sportsmanship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    As someone who was hopeless at school sport, P.E. was not about learning to cope with winning and losing, it was about always losing and I got very fed up and gave up. If school PE is about developing fitness and an active lifestyle then sport does not work for a large number pupils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    My nephew's primary school "sports" day involved teams with a child from each year doing "sports" such as throwing a beanbag into a circle. Everyone got a sticker. The majority (including my nephew) were fat. My daughter's school does proper races, only the first three get a sticker, and the majority are fit-looking. Go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Non competitive sport does not exist. Competition is the essence of sport, remove it and what is left may be fun but it is not sport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Not an issue - Unlike those with rose tinted glasses if you remember your old PE classes you may have a slight memory of the 98% of your year not being picked for a team, not involved in any sports competitive or otherwise - Some people hate sports LIVE WITH IT - This does not stop them or anyone being competitive in maths, science or english - Which are useful rather than the useless hobby class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I took part in sport at school and loved it. During school years there is nothing better than team sport to develop the team working skills needed in real life. The problem the UK faces now is that too many kids have left school thinking competition is bad and winning doesn't matter. That's why UK PLC has difficulty competing in world markets. Others countries breed winners - that's what we need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Competitive sport is about so much more than the simple placings at the end. Teaching sportmanship, operating within the rules of a game, respecting authority of judges/referees, these are important lessons for anyone. Sport is also about self improvement, the discipline that comes with training. A perfect example is the traditional Martial Arts. Remove competition lose far more then the game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    So, the preferred method is to give up on competition. Can anyone achieve anything without having to strive to earn it? So the plan is to wrap the children in bubble wrap and pat them on the head and tell them they can have whatever they want?! These are basic life lessons that our children need to learn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    So it is ok to be competitive in Maths & English etc, but not sport? My son is in year 6 and knows he is on top table for Maths, and second table for English, but sports day comprises of group activities with no individual chance to shine. Some of his classmates know they are on bottom tables inside the classroom, but would win in sport, give every child a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    91.Blueyes2 Children need to learn life is competitive and in life there will be winners and losers.


    Or maybe they could be allowed to have a little bit of fun before an entire lifetime of living this harsh reality - i think this used to be known as childhood

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Sport should be about taking part and reaching your own goals, bettering your own achievements. If the right attitude is used to present sport then expectations can be realised and are worthy just like the public marathons are run to raise money, kids will learn the value of team effort and understand the principle of what you put in can effect what you get out. Failure need not be measured.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I've been saying this for years. I'm in my fifties now and am still mentally scarred from school PE lessons. Banish it altogether. Have kids doing Yoga, Meditation, and Tai Chi instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    There is certainly a problem with youth football, where fat, middle-aged men scream at 10-year-olds to "hoof it up the park" and put far too much emphasis on winning, which totally destroys any fun for the kids.

    Although I think we can get rid of attitudes like that without removing all competitiveness from kids' sport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I remember coming third in a cross country race at school where nobody (infact, the worst culprit was the teacher... he was a nasty piece of work) gave me a chance. Good times. Made me realise I was actually pretty good - and could be really good if I put some effort in.

    Without competitiveness, how do you know whether or not you have a high potential?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Life is competitive therefore sports has to be. Take the competitive element out of sport and there will be no life lessons learnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Kids love team sports which are, by their nature, competitive. Kids love to win but are fine when they lose as long as the people around them are fine with that and are happy to help them learn by their mistakes.

    My son plays Cricket and is always happy when his team wins but not at all costs. They play hard but they play fair. That's why he hates football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I knew who was better than me. What was dispiriting was with 30 of us in a class, the bottom 8 didn't get to play football or cricket. We knew we were rubbish. But we would have mostly liked to have played. Teams and winning meant we didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    ''...The problem (...) is then subject to alot of subjective interpretation. Such as "Competitive sport puts off schoolchildren", which appears to be the writer's angle rather than an accurate interprtation of the data..
    Poor excuse for journalism.


    I make you absolutely right... a really shoddy piece of journalism

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This report has been made by somebody who was useless at everything except picking holes in other peoples abilities.


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