Children shun competition in school sport


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The Independent Online

Competitive dads across the country should brace themselves. Almost two out of three children would either be relieved or “not bothered” if the competitive element were taken out of school sport.

A study of 1,000 eight- to 16-year-olds and a similar number of parents reveals that mothers and fathers are often more anxious about the result of school games than their children are.

It comes at a time when MPs from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, down have expressed concern that too many schools are failing to organise competitive sports games due to fears that it exposes children to a sense of failure if they lose.

The report, compiled by the MCC and Chance to Shine, the cricketing charity which promotes the game in state schools, reveals competition is a key reason why parents watch their children play.

Nearly four out of 10 children (39 per cent) believe their parents would be less likely to turn up if there were no winning or losing element – and 22 per cent of parents acknowledge this, too.

It shows that nine out of 10 young people believe it is important to experience both winning and losing. But while 62 per cent of children said they could take pride in winning, the figure for parents was much higher, at 71 per cent.

In addition, 64 per cent said they would be relieved or – in the words of the fictional teenager Vicky Pollard from television’s Little Britain – “not bothered” if there were no emphasis on winning or losing in school games.

The days of the pushy parent are confirmed by the survey, with parents on the touchline saying they were more concerned about winning than the children – 97 per cent as opposed to 84 per cent.

When asked what the most important aspect of sport was, 43 per cent of parents and 36 per cent of children mentioned teamwork and exercise.

“It is worrying to see so many children would be relieved to see the competitive element removed from sport,” said Wasim Khan, the chief executive of Chance to Shine and a former Warwickshire cricketer.

“We want to teach children the importance of playing sport competitively and fairly – and explain the benefits it can bring to their lives.”

The MCC and Chance to Shine are combining to launch a competitive and fair-play  initiative in state schools, involving holding assemblies and taking lessons on the subject in 5,500 state schools over the summer – educating 420,000 pupils.

Derek Brewer, the chief executive of the MCC, added: “The combination of competition and fair play is integral to the MCC Spirit of Cricket message so the results of this survey are a concern.

“Through our partnership with Chance to Shine, the MCC will promote this Spirit of Cricket message to thousands of children across the UK to show how they can learn from fairly played competitive sport.”

Another concern is the selling-off of school playing fields, often for private developments such as housing. The Government insists that all applications have to be approved personally by the Secretary of State for  Education. However, campaigners say this has failed to halt the erosion of land.