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 171.

    It is in school that competition is actually fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Life is winning, and losing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Kids are so discouraged from being competitive elsewhere (prizes for everyone, indeed "brainy" kids mocked) the fact that sport is the only way to "win" must put off all but the most athletic. What a shame!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Still haven't recovered from the damage inflicted by school sports - and I'm over 70! All those assemblies spent sitting on the platform while the other girls were told not to talk to me for two days because I'd let the school down in yet another hockey match. By all means make sure all kids get plenty of exercise and encourage the ones who want to compete. But don't force them into competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    The only Kids I know who claim to be not competitive are the ones who aren't very good at sports. Until you find the one they can relate to, and then they are just the same as the rest.

    Life is competitive, we have to know how to win and how to lose.

    The real reason for lack of competitive sports in most schools is lack of interest (overtime??) from the PE staff

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I can say that competitive sport put me off exercise for YEARS. This isn't about teaching kids to learn how to win and lose gracefully- this is about finding ways to encourage kids to enjoy exercise! I love independent exercise like Zumba and Aerobics now - but it took me leaving the world of competitive school PE to realise what really matters is the fact that you're exercising at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Totally hated sport at school myself, and I've never understood why those of us who weren't physically gifted or otherwise interested in it were subjected to the experience. As for dealing with failure, it did teach me there was no point in trying to do things I couldn't do I guess... or at least it would have done had that not been just straight up common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    competitive sport skews our value system to bolster the importance of idiotic games at the cost of academic excellence.

    Let try picking teams in maths class and telling people who cant add up that they're losers. It'd be more honest and people would learn decent values instead of yob culture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    I wonder who this survey targeted. The friendless kid who cries at a fly, or the chubbier children, but I'll bet they didn't ask one kid who looked remotely sporty in this survey

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    So we're doomed in any sporting competitions in the near future - bit like the England cricket team where we want peace in the dressing room and no wins on the pitch, sad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    The problem with team sports is that if you're absolutely awful, you bring down your entire team; and don't they let you know it.

    Maybe part of the 'teach children to cope with losing' lesson could involve being gracious and forgiving rather than spreading around blame and bullying?

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I think it's important to strike a balance. Competition is there in many aspects of life and it's good for our kids to get used to that idea but i do think that many parents and coaches take it to the extreme and put unfair pressure on kids - they need to take a breath and realize that at the end of the day it is just a sport, not a life and death struggle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    No wonder our national teams perform so badly, competitive and team sports should be encouraged in schools.

    Yet again the PC brigade dictating there views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Oh goody more circular football with no goals and no winners.

    Just what kids need to learn. Run around in circles and get nowhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    10 Minutes ago
    Competition is, ultimately, a selfish pursuit.
    --- I think that is a defeatist attitude, it gives the picture of people sitting around a table waiting for the first one to open their mouths. No-one can be a leader in your world. So you end up doing nothing of real value. True leaders fight to succeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Competition teaches you to put in effort and strive for success. Competition also inevitably teaches that you can't win everything and what is important is learning from your mistakes. Sport is the easiest and most accessible way to introduce competition to children in a fun, constructive way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    There were two reasons why competition in academic subject never bothered me, but I hated sports and PE.
    1 - In an academic subject there was no audience, no shouting from the sidelines, no testosterone-fueled feeling of winning and losing.
    2 - In sports there is always an emotional component. If you lost, the teachers made sure you felt bad about it.

    Teach the kids how to deal with losing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I HATED sports at school in the 1950s. So did Einstein and it did not stop him from succeeding in life!! It ruined my childhood, as I lived in fear of Wednesdays (sports day). It is quite wrong for Cameron to press for competitive sports in schools. It punishes so many children who have no interest or motivation to play "games". You cannot tell a child to love something it naturally HATES.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Kids obviously aren't all pressed from the same mould. Not everyone can win, and those with pushy parents will probably end up dreading competitive sport if a defeat is not a learning experience to be put in perspective, but the harbinger of a continual crushing drip of parental carping and disappointment. Winning and losing teach nothing socially useful without the lesson of context.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Just goes to show that sport should be compulsory in schools but competitive sport should be optional.


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