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UK Coaching Team

Does School Sport Need Competition?

The subject of just how competitive sport at a junior level should be is controversial. Crispin Andrews discovers that more organisations are coming around to the idea of ‘appropriate’ competition and the necessity of encouraging children to stay involved in sport

Remember playing sport with your mates at the local park when you were a youngster? It was informal and fun. But things change and become ‘formal’ and ‘organised’. Is that for better or for worse?

For the time you were out at your local park, you played hard, to win, had fun... and lots of exercise. Then you went home, had your tea and wondered why adults sulked for weeks if sports results didn’t go the ‘right’ way.

Out at the park there were no adults telling you what to do and how to do it. No one telling you that you were letting your team down if you tried something flash that didn’t come off. No one insisting that you grind out a boring draw when the odds were against you.

Do children want a competitive element in sport?

There was a predictable uproar in 2013 when Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the body that used to run world cricket, and the Chance to Shine sports charity released a poll that claimed 64% of school children wouldn’t care if the competitive element was removed from school sport.

Out came the familiar arguments about how the ‘prizes for all’ culture in school undermined children’s competitive spirit. How competitive sport is frowned upon in many state schools, and because of this, talented children aren’t reaching their sporting potential. How because of this, Britain risks losing its competitive edge in years to come.

All very serious. Not much fun at all.

The following year, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) hit the headlines for apparently taking winning and losing out of its mini rugby competitions.

“They’re going soft”, one paper claimed. Here was a sport where top players can’t afford to shirk a tackle and kids are playing games where there’s no point trying to score.

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UK Coaching Team