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Should school sport be more competitive?

This subject has become of high interest in recent weeks with Fit4Fun being asked to go on air at BBC Radio Humberside to share their viewpoints this morning. Due to coaching commitments we were unable to make it this and despite giving my views on a very quick recording evidently my exhausted brain couldn't quite get make the radio standard! I'm not surprised as i can barely remember what I said.

In a view to get my thoughts across I did however write this email to send to @BBC Radio Humberside to express my thoughts a little further! Hopefully this clears things up.

"From our point of view we love healthy competition in sport at Fit4Fun and it is readily a part of our day to day sessions. Learning to win, succeed, lose or fail is ultimately a vital life skill but somehow, in sport, everything can get lost in translation.

When planning competitions, tournaments and sports days in local schools and clubs our general discussion always starts with whether they want to be inclusive or results driven. Once we establish this it creates a clear picture and focus for our delivery and we can align it with the expectations of parents, children and staff.

A school who chooses to be inclusive would usually follow the direction of involving as many children as possible in local competitions across the school year and therefore would not be affected or motivated by the results or standings. As a coach I would still want the children to try their best to succeed but the bigger picture is for them to gain experience in a competitive environment and hopefully have the confidence and motivation to push themselves further on a more regular basis within sport. This can be a timely process but we have to remember that a lot of children would never get the opportunity to compete without this approach in primary school.

The flip side of the coin would be a results driven, win at all cost mentality whereby the best children are always selected for the chosen competitions and the lunchtime/afterschool clubs are solely focused towards practice with the team. Usually, at primary school level, this can come down to a handful of pupils across a year group and although it can be a good advertisement to have a successful sports team it is a small percentage of pupils who are included. I’ve had many discussions with parents classifying this as unfair but it’s prudent to mention that it will naturally create a new level of competition amongst certain pupils as they strive to be involved in a successful squad.

Personally I would love to see considerably more sporting competitions organised at schools but sadly finding a location, the British climate and transporting the children from A to B is always a big factor within the Hull & East Riding counties. With more tournaments and competitive matches we could offer a wider spectrum of opportunity to children of all abilities ensuring they can access a level competition relative to their ability rather than just as a one off. It’s an idealistic viewpoint but definitely one that could be achieved over time if all school clusters had the same philosophy, access to facilities and also coaching. As an example we have been able to achieve this at several primary school on their annual sports days. Over time we have managed to group children into clusters ensuring they compete against each other on their ability rather than their age. Doing this has enabled a healthy, fun and competitive environment whereby the children are continually challenged, motivated and driven.

At Fit4Fun we are happy to deliver on either side of the scale but our sessions have and always will involve structured competition. Understanding to win or lose is part of our journey and it takes time, understanding, coaching and guidance. Primary school for me is an opportunity to learn, improve and compete across all areas including sport and although we readily accept and learn through testing within the classroom it is not widely accepted that learning takes place through competitive sport. A loss is often viewed as failure; A win judged as success but without competition we get to experience neither and consequently we will never improve"

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