What happened to competition in schools, and when did the word ‘competition’ become a dirty word? A word not to be uttered for fear of being made to feel guilty for wanting more? Or for fear of offending everyone? I read a post today that got me all fired up, enough to actually put my fingers to my keyboard and write this post. It was a post by the lovely Meagan at The Mum Project, I’m not going to rewrite it, but you can check it out here.
In my opinion, the last few generations of parents, teachers and the whole world in fact, have been pushing the idea on children that taking part is enough, there should be no winners or losers, everyone must be recognised. This lack of competition in schools has led to the current generation of people who think that they are entitled to have and to take whatever their precious hearts desire.
In My Experience
My first experience of this was about 9 years ago. My husband and I attended my step-daughter’s first school sports day – she was about 6 years old. Think egg & spoon race, sack race etc. We went along and cheered for her during her races, and then we realised that not many other parents were cheering, everyone was standing there, clapping and enjoying themselves. And staring at us with very judgemental sideways glances, whispering behind their hands. I assumed their disapproving glances and whispers were the usual “There she is. The step-mother, the home-wrecker.” I wasn’t a home-wrecker but whatever helped them sleep at night.
So what was it then you might ask? Well there we were, over-excited, screaming, jumping up and down, shouting things like “Run”, “Faster”, “You can do it” “Go, go, go!”.
After the races were done, my step-daughter came running over to us, so excited to show us the ribbon she had got. We were happy she was excited but we were surprised because she had come second-from-last. It was then that we realised it wasn’t actually a race. There was no competition and everyone got a ribbon for participating. There were no winners and no losers.
Then it dawned on us. The judgement that was being passed over us wasn’t because I, ‘the home-wrecker’ was there. It was because we were shouting encouragement and urging our child to win and, *gasp* beat the other children! OMG! The horror!
What was the point?
We were horrified. It was so completely opposite to how we both remembered our school sports days – back in the dark ages apparently! In our experience, competition in schools, and in particular sports days, were filled with sweat and tears, trophies and medals, winners, losers, and everyone participating in some way to achieve a result.
No one got a medal if they didn’t earn it. No one got recognition simply for turning up, although it was compulsory and you were taught that by not showing up you were letting your teammates down!
Everyone was taught about good sportsmanship, and cheering on your teams, celebrating wins, being a team player and trying harder next time. Even those who weren’t athletic were included in the day in some way and their strengths were utilised whether it was in organisation, planning, cheering, or even just helping the teachers.
The Current Reality
It wasn’t just Meagan’s post that prompted me to write this post though. I learned this week that the upcoming 5-a-side annual football tournament at the girl’s school will be giving out medals to all the players, regardless of whether their team wins or loses. I was completely shocked. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked though, maybe I’m the one who has been living in a bubble, or the past maybe.
The more I thought about it though, the angrier I became; the more I realised that, in my opinion, this is exactly what is wrong with society now. I am sure that many, many people will disagree with me. #hatersgonnahate
Why is competition in schools important?
When you ask employers about why they turn down some applicants and then employ others they will come back and tell you that most school leavers go into the interviews with the wrong attitude. They go there to find out what they can get from the job in their package salary, phone, car, medical aid, transport, bonus, etc.
Instead, they should go into the interview knowing that they are basically auditioning. They need to show the interviewer why they should be employed. Show their potential employer what they can do for the company, and what they are prepared to offer of themselves if they are just given the opportunity. The company doesn’t need your demands, they need you to want to work for them. It’s up to you to prove that you can do the work they need you to.
Who’s to blame?
Can you blame those applicants? They’ve never had to compete for anything. They’ve been handed everything their whole lives and made to believe they can have whatever they want, that just by turning up they should be rewarded! It’s enough.
It’s not enough.
So, getting back to my daughters, getting back to me parenting my daughters, what do I want? What will I do?
Do I want them to get recognition just for attending a compulsory school sporting event? No, I do not! If that does happen, fine, that’s on the school. However, I sincerely hope the winners of the competition receive some higher form of recognition!
Do I want my daughters to learn to fight for what is worth having!
Will I help them? Absolutely.
Will I do it for them? Not a chance.
Will I say ‘it’s okay, maybe next time?’ No, I blady won’t. Not if they weren’t trying hard enough. And certainly not if they weren’t putting in the time, effort, or paying their dues!
What if they work hard but still don’t achieve what they wanted to? Well then I will help them, support them, maybe point them in a different direction, one that plays to their strengths. I will teach them to aim for the highest height that they can achieve. But they also need to understand that you can’t just have everything you want now, you have to work for it!
What is my job?
Competition is schools is not just about who can run the fastest, or who can get straight As! There are many many ways to promote competition, from academia to art, sports to fund raising activities. The point is that if we don’t teach them that if they don’t work hard enough they will probably fail. We should be teaching them how to deal with failure too. That you can’t win everything, there will always be someone better than you at something and that’s okay. But without competition, how will they learn this?
Isn’t it our job to prepare our children for the real world? Isn’t it our job to equip them to live a successful life? This is real life. Are we doing our job if we never let them actually work for anything and then chuck them out into the deep end? Is that really responsible? I don’t think it is.
You don’t have to be a CEO of a company and drive a fancy expensive car. What you do have to do is work hard to get what you want, because that way you will respect and appreciate what you have when you know how hard you worked for it.
No one should be recognised just for showing up!
Be recognised for being great, for working hard. Be recognised for doing good.
If there is no competition or standard of excellence, everyone and everything will be mediocre. We can’t all be winners because then, by default, we are all losers. How grey, dull and boring will that be?
Nothing worth having, comes easy. I believe that competition in schools is healthy and it teaches us to work hard for what we want, support those who have won, and be gracious should we lose, because at least we tried our best.
The strong beautiful lady in my main image is Chantè Finger, a family friend. She has represented South Africa in athletics and is currently studying to be a nurse. You can follow her for more inspirational beautiful photos on her Instagram page: @chantefinger. Thanks for letting me use your photo Chantè. xx