Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Winners and Losers

Interesting article out of Western Australia - some schools are shunning the awarding and celebrating of individual achievements, instead focusing upon recognising all that participate. Going even further than this, some schools are not even keeping score in school sporting games, in a bid to move away from focusing upon competition and, instead, towards an emphasis upon participation and enjoyment.

I can almost hear the huffing and puffing from people ridiculing these sorts of actions...
"Political correctness gone mad!!"
"Competition didn't do me any harm as a youngster... "
"Winning and losing is part of life and kids need to get used to it."
"Why should the good players be denied opportunity to be celebrated?!?"
"How will we ever develop hard-nosed, win-at-all costs footballers for the AFL / NRL / ARU / A-League, if kids don't play this way at school?!?"

I actually think the principles behind these sorts of decisions and policies are sound and admirable - although I am sure I am not in the majority in thinking this way!

The main purpose of school sporting activities and most out-of-school youth sport is not to search relentlessly for the next potential sporting superstar, brushing aside the many who are not physically gifted, talented or coordinated enough to be sporting high-achievers. Instead, sporting activities for children, particularly those occurring at school, should focus upon the participation and learning of all students. i.e. We should not glorify the achievements of individuals - which invariably are more due to natural talents and abilities, rather than any extra work or effort compared with many of their peers - whilst casting the rest of the students to the shadows...

Yes, 'winning' and 'losing' happens to everyone in one form or another as they progress in their lives, but people just as surely will experience situations where they or others will need to demonstrate co-operative, sharing, equitable behaviours. In order to be a successful participant in an increasingly diverse society, it is more important than ever to be able to act cooperatively and harmoniously with people from a range of backgrounds. These are the skills that we need to be focusing upon developing in all students - much more so than combative, winner / loser mentalities.
'Good' players will invariably have an intrinsic sense of their... 'goodness'... In a lot of cases they will tend to have their egos boosted by way of regular praise and acknowledgements of their achievements from their peers, their families, their clubs [if playing sport outside of school], etc. - we don't need to fan these flames with extravagant awards and singling out for recognition, any more than we need to do so for celebrating the academic achievements of children who are 'naturals' at Maths, Writing, etc... It is not big heads that are the major cause for concern here - rather, the marginalising and diminishing of the efforts of all other participants.
As for any reduction in the quality of sport we watch on Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, etc, the ultra-competitive mindsets and playing styles required for top-level sport will be honed as young people move through talent-identification systems, junior development squads, representative teams, etc. There is lots of time and opportunity for the individually-brilliant, hard-nosed competitor to develop and be celebrated - let's just remember everyone else whilst they are in primary school...

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