competition in schools

What Happened To Competition In Schools?

What happened to competition in schools, and when did the word ‘competition’ become a dirty word? A word not to be uttered for fear of being made to feel guilty for wanting more? Or for fear of offending everyone?  I read a post today that got me all fired up, enough to actually put my fingers to my keyboard and write this post. It was a post by the lovely Meagan at The Mum Project, I’m not going to rewrite it, but you can check it out here.

In my opinion, the last few generations of parents, teachers and the whole world in fact, have been pushing the idea on children that taking part is enough, there should be no winners or losers, everyone must be recognised. This lack of competition in schools has led to the current generation of people who think that they are entitled to have and to take whatever their precious hearts desire.  

In My Experience

My first experience of this was about 9 years ago. My husband and I attended my step-daughter’s first school sports day – she was about 6 years old. Think egg & spoon race, sack race etc. We went along and cheered for her during her races, and then we realised that not many other parents were cheering, everyone was standing there, clapping and enjoying themselves. And staring at us with very judgemental sideways glances, whispering behind their hands. I assumed their disapproving glances and whispers were the usual “There she is. The step-mother, the home-wrecker.” I wasn’t a home-wrecker but whatever helped them sleep at night.

So what was it then you might ask? Well there we were, over-excited, screaming, jumping up and down, shouting things like “Run”, “Faster”, “You can do it” “Go, go, go!”.

After the races were done, my step-daughter came running over to us, so excited to show us the ribbon she had got. We were happy she was excited but we were surprised because she had come second-from-last. It was then that we realised it wasn’t actually a race. There was no competition and everyone got a ribbon for participating. There were no winners and no losers.

Then it dawned on us. The judgement that was being passed over us wasn’t because I, ‘the home-wrecker’ was there. It was because we were shouting encouragement and urging our child to win and, *gasp* beat the other children! OMG! The horror!

What was the point? 

We were horrified. It was so completely opposite to how we both remembered our school sports days – back in the dark ages apparently! In our experience, competition in schools, and in particular sports days, were filled with sweat and tears, trophies and medals, winners, losers, and everyone participating in some way to achieve a result.

No one got a medal if they didn’t earn it. No one got recognition simply for turning up, although it was compulsory and you were taught that by not showing up you were letting your teammates down!

Everyone was taught about good sportsmanship, and cheering on your teams, celebrating wins, being a team player and trying harder next time. Even those who weren’t athletic were included in the day in some way and their strengths were utilised whether it was in organisation, planning, cheering, or even just helping the teachers.

The Current Reality 

It wasn’t just Meagan’s post that prompted me to write this post though. I learned this week that the upcoming 5-a-side annual football tournament at the girl’s school will be giving out medals to all the players, regardless of whether their team wins or loses. I was completely shocked. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked though, maybe I’m the one who has been living in a bubble, or the past maybe.

The more I thought about it though, the more angry I became; the more I realised that, in my opinion, this is exactly what is wrong with society now. I am sure that many, many people will disagree with me. #hatersgonnahate

Why is competition in schools important?  

When you ask employers about why they turn down some applicants and then employ others they will come back and tell you that most school leavers go into the interviews with the wrong attitude. They go there to find out what they can get from the job in their package salary, phone, car, medical aid, transport, bonus, etc.

Instead they should go into the interview knowing that they are basically auditioning. They need to show the interviewer why they should be employed. Show their potential employer what they can do for the company, and what they are prepared to offer of themselves if they are just given the opportunity. The company doesn’t need your demands, they need you to want to work for them. It’s up to you to prove that you can do the work they need you to.

Who’s to blame?

Can you blame those applicants? They’ve never had to compete for anything. They’ve been handed everything their whole lives and made to believe they can have whatever they want, that just by turning up they should be rewarded! It’s enough.

It’s not enough.

So, getting back to my daughters, getting back to me parenting my daughters, what do I want? What will I do?

Do I want them to get recognition just for attending a compulsory school sporting event? No, I do not! If that does happen, fine, that’s on the school. However, I sincerely hope the winners of the competition receive some higher form of recognition!

Do I want my daughters to learn to fight for what is worth having!

Absolutely!

Will I help them? Absolutely.

Will I do it for them? Not a chance.

Will I say ‘it’s okay, maybe next time?’ No, I blady won’t. Not if they weren’t trying hard enough. And certainly not if they weren’t putting in the time, effort, or paying their dues!

What if they work hard but still don’t achieve what they wanted to? Well then I will help them, support them, maybe point them in a different direction, one that plays to their strengths. I will teach them to aim for the highest height that they can achieve. But they also need to understand that you can’t just have everything you want now, you have to work for it!

What is my job? 

Competition is schools is not just about who can run the fastest, or who can get straight As! There are many many ways to promote competition, from academia to art, sports to fund raising activities. The point is that if we don’t teach them that if they don’t work hard enough they will probably fail. We should be teaching them how to deal with failure too. That you can’t win everything, there will always be someone better than you at something and that’s okay. But without competition, how will they learn this?

Isn’t it our job to prepare our children for the real world? Isn’t it our job to equip them to live a successful life? This is real life. Are we doing our job if we never let them actually work for anything and then chuck them out into the deep end? Is that really responsible? I don’t think it is.

You don’t have to be a CEO of a company and drive a fancy expensive car. What you do have to do is work hard to get what you want, because that way you will respect and appreciate what you have when you know how hard you worked for it.

No one should be recognised just for showing up!

Be recognised for being great, for working hard. Be recognised for doing good.

If there is no competition or standard of excellence, everyone and everything will be mediocre. We can’t all be winners because then, by default, we are all losers. How grey, dull and boring will that be?

Nothing worth having, comes easy. I believe that competition in schools is healthy and it teaches us to work hard for what we want, support those who have won, and be gracious should we lose, because at least we tried our best.


The strong beautiful lady in my featured image is Chantè Finger, a family friend. She has represented South Africa in athletics and is currently studying to be a nurse. You can follow her for more inspirational beautiful photos on her Instagram page: @chantefinger. Thanks for letting me use your photo Chantè. xx

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Comments

  1. I was never good at sports and I think you are right. You miss great life lessons if there is no competition as a child. I came second last in a race once, the last person was first but got sick and therefor came last. When I moaned about being last, my cousin told me: the important thing is that you finished the race. Amazing hey

    1. But that is important. We can’t all be winners, but you tried. At least by trying you know that sports is not your thing. I was captain of many sports teams in high school. Not because I was best at the sport, but because I was best at organising the team. Our team didn’t always win, but we were always a team. Competition teaches you so much more than just winning or losing. Maybe I need to write that in there. lol

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more on this. We plan to raise our son in the same kind of world that you are planning to raise your daughters in. I think, as parents, we will have a challenge ahead of us trying to work around the way the current world is going, with participation ribbons a-plenty and having to explain that that’s not the way things really work even though society around them is trying to tell them otherwise. I was a competitive swimmer for 14 years and every swim competition we had there was a medal ceremony on the final day. I can remember the jealousy and envy I had seeing my competitors going and receiving their medals. That’s what gave me drive to work harder at practices and listen to what I was being taught. I knew it wasn’t going to be handed to me. I was 13 years old and I understood that. If I didn’t work for it…I didn’t get it. It’s as simple as that. I don’t understand why there has been such a huge switch and suddenly we are more worried about hurting kid’s feelings than we are about teaching them to work hard for what they want and that failure is the only way to learn sometimes. I could go on forever about this!

    1. Exactly. So glad there are more of us out there. Life is not a fairy tale! I don’t understand how we got to this point. Political correctness has also gone mad! Scary stuff. Thanks for reading x

  3. I agree! There must be a want to ‘fight’ for it! Your blogs should be on Facebook ?

    1. Haha … thanks. We’ll see. Too many nosy people there who will think it’s all about them.

    1. Exactly. No one is good at everything but we can teach them to be proud of what they did achieve by actually trying.

  4. Yeah, this is an awkward one. At my daughter’s school there are four houses and on sports day the four houses compete against each other as opposed to the individuals. I guess it’s a half-way house.

    I kinda see the logic as to what schools are doing, but I am not entirely comfortable with I have to say. #ThatFridayLinky

    1. I don’t claim to have all the right answers, but my gut tells me the current system is wrong.

  5. This is a sticky one. I see why schools take this stance, but I too have trouble with it. It’s form of cotton wool wrapping that will be shredded by the real world.
    Great post.
    #ThatFridayLinky

    1. Exactly. Kids are precious but they need to be better prepared for the real world.

  6. I had all these thoughts too when I read Meagan’s post! You are absolutely right that this generation feels not like they are owed something, but that they are owed everything! A friend of mine who I went to school, college & university with, and recently undertook another qualification with her can’t understand why we’ve done all of the same things but I could be perceived as more successful. I was just offered a promotion at work but she has been there longer and that upset her. Hard to tell her it’s because she’s lazy, and even worse can come across as negative. No employer wants to reward that, but she feels like she is owed simply because. Great post! #MarvMondays

    1. Exactly … congrats to you. Hard work is what is rewarded, not just showing up! x

  7. I agree. Competition can be a great motivator because it demonstrates that you need to work hard to get somewhere. I do think it’s important to encourage children to take part, even if they aren’t going to win, because that is a life lesson in itself (not giving up at the first hurdle or because something looks too hard), but saying that just by taking part you are a winner is missing the point entirely. Really interesting post. Thanks. #blogcrush

    1. Thanks Lucy. You raise a good point that maybe I missed. Attendance is good, even if it is forced or compulsory … but there should still be a recognized winner, and runner up!

  8. Haha, my husband would agree with you. He’s all for competition whereas I’m more the ‘it’s the taking part bit that counts! Sorry for the late comment, it was a busy weekend! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    1. haha … he did agree with me. Thanks for commenting. Weekends are busy. x

  9. It’s a difficult one I know, but as I always say nobody ever remembers who came second win win I believe every time great post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    1. haha … your wife said you’d say that. Thanks Nige.

  10. I think the lack of childhood competition has made it impossible for kids to be ready for adult life. We compete for jobs, we compete for homes, we compete for the best seat in the theater…you can’t have an adult throw a tantrum over a movie seat they wanted and yet I’ve seen it happen. #GlobalBlogging

    1. haha … that’s bad. Must have been almost as entertaining as watching the movie.

  11. I agree, I am sure we became successful grown ups by competing as children especially in sport. That is where you learnt to deal with loosing as well. When you tried your best and worked hard and there was an athlete who did better, you learnt perseverance and resilience. #globalblogging

    1. Exactly. We learnt that not everyone can win. Those that do win should be celebrated and respected. Nothing wrong with that.

  12. I really like this post and agree there’s no real competition anymore. Life is challenging and by commiserating our kids all the time doesn’t really prepare them for real life. We’re all about you have to try your best and come first!! Thanks for linking to #marvmondays

    1. Pleasure. I’m pleasantly surprised by how many people are agreeing with me. Makes me wander who all removed the competition. ?

  13. Our kids play sports and the first grade soccer program doesn’t keep score. This very much pisses my little competitor off. My older daughter is a competitive swimmer and loses by hundredths of seconds. Its part of life. People need to get over it. Thanks for linking up to #globalblogging

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  17. I think the problem with competition is that it has a bad rep. It has a bad rep because people take it way too seriously. Both of my boys start to take competition too seriously when they get way too upset about losing. This is where I teach them to be a strong loser versus a sore loser. It’s not the competition that is the bad here, it’s the way people handle it that makes it bad, yet organizations decide to take out the whole competition part of it. What does that teach our kids? There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. It teaches our kids about winning and losing, which is a part of life. It also teaches our kids how to win and how to lose in a positive and healthy way. But for some reason we, as a society, have become a lazy bunch and don’t want to take the time to teach our kids that. Maybe this is something we should all work on.

    1. I agree completely. There are bad winners and sore losers. A true sportsman is someone who can accept either situation with humility and grace. That’s an important lesson. Thanks for the lovely thoughtful comment.

  18. Our school split into houses for sports day and each house competes with each other. The winning house gets a trophy together with each kid getting a medal. During the races 1st, 2nd, 3rd also get a sticker.

    It is a tricky subject and hard for the school to deal with, however I am of a similar position to you. You shouldn’t be rewarded, just for showing up and healthy competition should always be encouraged. #itsOK

    1. Author

      I get that some parents lose perspective and that should not be encouraged. But overall I think a certain level of competition is good and healthy.

  19. Well said! I’ve not had any experience of this yet – but it’s Thomas’ preschool sports day next month. I’ll put money on the fact they won’t be promoting competition, I guess they are only three and four – but it won’t stop me shouting for him to run faster! ha ha. #ItsOK

  20. In our schools, the juniors is competitive and the infants isn’t which I think works well. I have a related issue at the moment, my son wants to join a new football team, he loves to play however he is only average and is struggling to find a team because they only want the best players.

    1. Agree with you on this Carly. Children need to be show the reality of things from a young age. Life itself is a competition – and the sooner they learn that you don’t always win, the better they will be able to handle disappointments later in life.

      But it need not all be negative. Competition can also teach them that it’s ok to lose, to come second; the important thing is that they tried.

      Fab post. #itsok

  21. I agree with you 100%, thankfully our schools here still compete on sportsday but they have levelled the playing field, pun fully intended, by introducing a variety of fun activities like dancing and hoolahooping as well as traditional running etc so that every one gets the opportunity to compete. I hope that they never do away with competitive sports day as not all kids are academic so this is their chance to shine too. And competition is such a necessary adult skill. I went for an interview today and if I just thought every one would get the job, I wouldn’t have bothered preparing and working hard for the interview! #itsok

  22. I do agree with you, but I guess it depends on the ages. I wouldn’t expect too much competition in the early years at school, but as they get older they need to learn that they can lose as well as win. Nobody wins all the time in real life do they! I’d be the one on the side shouting my child on to win. But I’d also be the one to hold them at the end and say that it’s ok not to win so long as they tried their best. I do remember doing a race for a charity one year and after an hours slog around the park I was rewarded with some dog tags to say I’d done it. Then I saw them handing out the same dog tags to anyone who asked, including my kids. It didn’t make me feel so good, yes, I’d done the race and raised some money, but those dog tags were my personal reward. #itsok

  23. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! My little girls are only 6 and 3 and I cannot digest how different an experience sports day is for them, comparing it to my own as a child. I think they’ve taken not hurting others feelings too far and children will loose motivation to try their hardest. #ItsOK

  24. I couldn’t agree more. I am all for inclusiveness but at the same time competition is important for showing children how hard you have to work in order to achieve something that you really, really want. And the losing is a very important experience that they need to go through, even if it does hurt in the process! I can’t imagine going to my daughter’s sports day and not being able to cheer her on. She hasn’t had one yet so I don’t know what the school’s policy is on this but I will be very interested to find out! #itsok

  25. Competition is very much needed. I don’t understand how schools are happy enough to celebrate specific academic wins in children but not sporting wins? Great subject to highlight and I totally agree on all points #itsok

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