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Children must compete

June 2, 2015

With the age of non-competitive school sports days and prizes for the least able as well as the most able, competition has never been so essential. In some respects, the word competition or competitive has become blasphemous and very “off message.” The primary reason for this is that when we use the word competition the assumption is that we are trying to compete in the Olympian context. Therefore, only the biggest, strongest and fastest children can win, confining everyone else to mediocrity. This notion is both partly true and utterly false. Whilst it is essential for children to play sport, to compete and always try to win, it is equally important for children to learn how to lose. This isn’t a cliché, it is a vital part of development and growing-up. Losing gracefully isn’t just about not sulking or being angry, it’s about acknowledging that somebody was better than you today, and that there is something to aim for. Losing is about evolving a sense of self and smiling at the loss. Losing is simply another lesson, one that teaches tolerance, humility and most importantly shows us we must do better – a lesson to be taken into later life.

Competition isn’t just about the cricket pitch, the rugby field or the arena. Competition is doing your best, it’s about being the best plumber, artist, IT technician, courier. It’s about striving to do better than yesterday in order to improve the soul. Whether we like it or not, if we teach children not to be competitive we are denying them the vital tools of survival, tools that they will need in adult life. However much we try to convince ourselves that coming second is fine, it does not prepare us for the white heat of the work place, or the intense competition of the job market, for growing-up.

Not everyone can win the sports day egg and spoon or three-legged race. Not everyone can compete at the highest level – but everyone can do something more important than wearing their country’s colours. They can do the best they can, be the best they can be and sleep easily with the knowledge that tomorrow I’ll do my best.

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