A non-competitive ethos is an alien concept in a house of 5 boys…
Friday just gone saw the annual Fun Run at the boys’ primary school where for the past 5 years (and probably long before our boys attended) has been an obligatory, competitive, cross-country style race. First, second and third, in each year group were congratulated with medals and a certificate handed out in next week’s assembly to rapturous applause from their peers. The “fun” aspect came from the optional fancy dress, however, coming from a sporting (read: dangerously competitive) family our boys always opted out of the “fun” part, choosing instead to do their best to win an “actual medal”. Imagine their disgust this year. after 3 weeks of self-inflicted training, when the PTA email thudded into my inbox informing my mini-competitors that this year’s event wasn’t really a race – everyone would be given a medal for taking part and that they would have to drag a “buddy” from another year group round some shin-bruising obstacles!
Has the world gone mad?!?!
At this point it would be a fair observation that my sons are relatively sporty and I can hear the non-sporty kids’ parents saying “of course she wants medals – her kids always get them”, however, my kids suck at lots of things too – they’re musically, rhythmically and dramatically challenged but I’m more than happy for them to discover via competition/talent shows that they just didn’t win that genetic battle. Apparently it’s ok to be rewarded in class for reading the most, excelling in maths or having impeccable hand writing, but it’s just not the done thing to single a child out on the sports field for an equally outstanding job, as that would be too competitive and not fair on the other kids. The irony of the “non-competitive” Fun Run was that first prize was given out for best fancy-dress in each class. Let me get this right: You won’t give the kid with the best sporting flare a prize, with the by product of promoting exercise, for fear of upsetting the slower kids – but you will give a prize for an Ebay bought Scooby-Doo onsie? REALLY?
Fun Run aside, this non-competitive “everyone’s a winner” bull is being mainlined into our kids everywhere from pre-school through to U8 football tournaments! I could blab on about “back in my day…” but I think I’m pretty safe in assuming most people reading this know exactly how it was pre-2000: Second place was first loser and you sucked it up! Says the girl who came second in Miss England 2003 – trust me, I know about being first loser ahem, second place.
I just worry about what our kids are taking from this message. As soon as the boys knew they weren’t going to be congratulated with another piece-of-ribbon-meets-metal crap the morning runs stopped – training came to an abrupt halt. Even the son who has never come first still had a chance to win the whole time it was a race – take away the competitive aspect and all hope was lost. Why are we teaching kids everyone’s a winner? They’re not and that’s fine, the sooner they suss that out, whilst still at an age where parents can soften the blow, the easier the heartbreak will be.
And on the theme of May the best man win… I’ve been, rather excitingly, shortlisted for a Brit Mums Brilliance in Blogging Fresh Voice Award – but in order to get to the final (yes, there will only be one winner as we’re grown-ups) I need your vote, please! Click HERE and vote for The Only Girl in the House in Fresh Voice Category. Thank you x
Yes girl!!!!! 1000% agree – there are no prizes for participating in life, so why are we teaching our kids that everyone wins so long as they try? It’s a sweet idea I suppose, but does them no favours and deprives children who really excel from experiencing the thrill of winning. What is more challenging, but more important (I would argue) is teaching children how to be fair and generous competitors – gracious winners and understanding losers. I wasn’t a great athlete myself, but I still enjoyed our school competitions; it was fun being able to watch my peers with real sporting talent excel. Having no prizes changes the entire dynamic around these competitions – why even bother? What a bummer; I hope they fix this next year, or that your boys are given the opportunity to put their talents on display elsewhere. I have a little boy and, whether he turns out sporty or not, I hope I can find a school for him that encourages real competition – it will build his character.