With my background as a P.E. teacher I have been particularly interested in the debate this week about sports days and whether competition amongst peers at school is a good or bad thing.
The fact is that life and the world of work is competitive. Some parents undoubtedly face difficult issues when a youngster who has always been successful, experiences disappointment or failure for the first time. Not getting the lead in the school play or a place in the hockey team; failing the driving test first time; un-expected grades in GCSE exams or not winning a race on sports day are, in my opinion, important learning experiences for school-age children from an early age. Setting an example during the parents’ race on sports day, often the most competitive event of the day in my experience could be a good place to start.
Praise, empathy and encouragement are of course key factors which contribute to confidence and success, but so are learning to win or lose gracefully, accepting that it is not always possible to succeed and developing the determination to try again. We are all desperate to see a British Wimbledon champion, but the potential for Andy Murray to achieve this, was certainly not created by shielding him whilst growing up from competition or possible failure.
Encouraging your child to recognise and develop their strengths, set attainable goals when facing competition and to accept that there will often be peers who, for a whole range of reasons, will defy their dreams. Competitive experiences will equip them with the drive and determination to proactively seek out opportunity, work hard to achieve realistic goals and not to be put off by set-backs along the way when things don’t go according to plan.