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Current issues relating to education, outdoor learning, childhood obesity, playground equipment and playground markings.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Competition, competition, competition…

It seems that the perennial issue of competition in PE and sport is raising its head again with the recent decision by the coalition government to undermine the last 10 years of School Sports Partnership success by criticising the lack of competition in schools. The use of competition from a developmentally appropriate perspective has always interested me, in terms of its use to challenge children and young people effectively and at the same time offer something for everyone to stimulate their curiosity and retain them within their chosen sport. I suppose the criticism I have with the latest governmental intervention is the emphasis placed on competition, particularly within traditional sports, and the lack of understanding of the interdependency of participation, competition and performance. In essence, more children participating will lead to more of them competing, and more of them accessing performance pathways. However, the base of the pyramid is always healthier when there is a large reservoir of participants engaged in high quality sports and physical activity. 

This is why I’m flabbergasted by the lack of vision in withdrawing funding from School Sport Partnerships - the very infrastructure that has successfully elevated school sports to unprecedented levels in this country. The final aspect of my utter bewilderment is that, at a time when the government seem intent on raising levels of competition, all of the National Governing Bodies of sport that I work with are adamant that they need to reduce it, often citing excessive levels of competition as counterproductive to their children and young people’s development and the main cause of ‘burnout’.

Self-referenced competition, that is the child competing against their own previous performances, remains the most developmentally appropriate method of charting progress for children and young people and avoids the commonly found stigma associated with the early introduction of adult-based forms of competition, most typically within games. The acquisition of multi-skills in a supportive and progressive environment is far more important than building self-esteem through defeating a direct opponent, or opponents, and is more likely to lead to lifelong participation.  I welcome your thoughts…

Dr David Morley
Head of Education - ESP

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