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Sports editor’s comment: Why I’ve changed my mind over competitive sport

The Bucks Herald sports editor Damien Lucas

The Bucks Herald sports editor Damien Lucas

 

Should school sport be competitive? It is a question that has raised debate from the Houses of Parliament to the streets of Aylesbury recently and is certainly one that provokes an emotional response from people.

I posed that very question on Twitter and The Bucks Herald’s Facebook page last week and was instantly flooded with replies.

On Facebook particularly, a healthy discussion took place with more than 100 posts about the subject, the majority very much in the ‘Yes’ camp.

A year ago you would not have found anyone more vehemently in favour of competitive school sport.

I blamed a lack of it for everything: the failure of our football team to perform at major tournaments, the shortcomings of our cricket teams and failure to find a realistic mens Olympic sprinting competitor.

But watching my six-year-old daughter’s non-competitive sports day changed my opinion. The idea is that rather competing individually, children earn points for their house team. There’s no races, just fun challenges.

But my Georgia is very competitive and so she still tried to be better than everyone else at all the different events.

A number of children in her house were the same, the end result?

That house won the overall event.

If anything it promoted team ethics and fostered a winning team mentality. And the less sporty kids weren’t embarassed – in fact every kid had smiles on their faces.

So for me I don’t think it matters if primary school sport is competitive, I don’t think it would make any difference in the long run.

Any children that shine or show willing in a particular sport should be pushed, by the school, towards local clubs where they can get that competitiveness. But save the competition for secondary school, there is still plenty of time for them to develop into elite sportsmen and women.

And I don’t buy the argument it is holding us back at the top level.

People hark back to the ‘good old days’ and say ‘it never did us any harm’.

But did it do us as a sporting nation any good either?

We haven’t had too much to shout about in international sport over the years, a solitary football World Cup in 1966, fluctuating Olympic performances and a cricket team that is as much off the boil as it is ever on.

The Spanish and Jamaicans, dominant in football and athletics respectively, afford their young children a lot of freedom to express themselves and try different things before they knuckle down to compete in their teens, it doesn’t hurt them too much does it?

PS: While I have the floor so to speak, I was delighted last week when our latest sports column, written by Crispin Andrews, was ‘favourited’ on Twitter by none other than ex-England cricket star Kevin Pietersen to his 1.6 million followers.

It was an excellent read and he obviously agreed.

I also want to praise Aylesbury’s very own Emmerson Boyce. What he has achieved with little old Wigan in the last year is nothing short of amazing.

Emmerson has built a fantastic career through dedication, professionalism and a first class attitude.

I sometimes get criticised for reporting on his progress but I believe it not only to be newsworthy (I haven’t seen many other people from Aylesbury make it to Wembley four times in a single year), but also inspirational to youngsters in the Vale.

 

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