Why I hate non competitive Sports Day!

Where did non competitive sports days come from?

It’s one of my massive hates as a teacher and a mum.

Sport is competitive and I don’t understand why it has been turned into everyone is a winner. I loved sports day as a kid, it was something that I looked forward to. I didn’t win everything but I won some. We had a mixture of silly races and more traditional running races and all the children and parents loved it. At my little boys sports day last week it was done in teams of countries. There were lots of different activities but no one won anything individually. There were no running races due to health and safety as it had been raining (the day before!) One of the most ridiculous things I have seen was an egg and spoon race, no sorry walk, with no winners, just counting how many times the children completed it. Honestly, who comes up with this stuff?

why I hate non competitive sports day
I can imagine it must be tough to watch your child cross the line last. So has it been done for the parents? Because the majority of kids don’t actually care! At my school sports day the children that came last still got a sticker and were congratulated for taking part and they took it well even in Foundation stage. They are learning an important life skill. How to take part and be a gracious winner and a good loser. My little boys school goes to year 6. They are going to get a shock when they get to secondary and there are shock horror, winners and losers in sport. We need to be encouraging a love of competing from an early age if we want to raise the next Olympians. I can’t imagine non competitive sports day happens in America!

Now my biggest hate about it is that those children who are good at sport, who maybe don’t come first in anything else during the year, don’t get that chance to excel! That chance to win at something, to be proud of their achievements and have people who are proud of them. There are team games for winning as part of a team, football, rugby and netball that children get to experience. So why don’t we let them experience the feeling of winning something individually? The feeling of adrenaline before a race. The feeling of absolute joy when you have tried your hardest and succeeded.

Bring back the races! Let children run and compete and enjoy healthy competition!

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64 responses to “Why I hate non competitive Sports Day!”

  1. I definitely agree with you! I am the least sporty person and hated taking part in sports day and never won anything. But it didn’t bother me because I was better at different things, and I knew I couldn’t be good at everything! xx

  2. Sam says:

    Completely agree. Sport is about winning and losing and so is life.
    We had sports day yesterday and the kids that came in last didn’t care. They still got a sticker and had a great time

  3. Helen says:

    My daughter is nearly 4 and throws a fit when she doesn’t win. She needs to learn to lose nicely. It’s an important lesson in life. We aren’t all good at everything and both winning and losing are part of life. I have no idea why we try to hide that from our children. Great post. Xxx #twinklytuesdays

  4. I am a firm believer in competition. We all excel at different things and I think that should be celebrated, like you say above the children who are great at sport might not get to enjoy their moment in the spotlight. If you get certificates for being top of the class, getting great grades, gifted and talented programmes and so much more in academia, then I really think sport should be celebrated as individuals and awarded that way. Hoorah for competition!

  5. Our primary school still has a competitive sports day, the kids love it! Although I think the teachers are worse than the kids haha #twinklyTuesday

  6. Life Loving says:

    What a rubbish idea! Surely as a parent and a teacher you are supposed to encourage your child to do their best and if that’s not bring be best that’s fine. Otherwise kids who excel at sport and nothing else will never shine. We’re all good at different things. Let’s celebrate that.

    Sally @ Life Loving

  7. Mama Herself says:

    My kid’s sports day was a sort of compromise, with team efforts for the sillier races and games like the egg and spoon, and the winning team being declared after each round. No overall totting up though. Then in the races they had out and out winners, semi finals and everything, stickers and a mention in assembly later in the week. My son, who has struggled with some of the classroom work this year, came second in both those races. He was stoked. In an education system which definitely has no qualms labeling children as young as four as losers when they don’t meet the increasingly unrealistic targets, it is a bit ludicrous to be pussy footing around competitive sports.

  8. I definitely agree, there is always competition in life and it’s something that’s important for children to get used to so it’s not such a shock later on. Not only that I have one child who struggles at school but is a really fast runner and he could really have done with that confidence boost at sports day this year!

    Stevie xx Thanks for co hosting #PicknMix 😉

  9. Oh my goodness this sounds cringy!I haven’t come across anything like this!I think it’s good for them to compete and even the losers have 5 mins upset then get over it and onto the next thing.Madness #picknmix

  10. Kate says:

    Yes!! You took the words right out of my mouth, it seems so pointless and teaches the children nothing. Let’s face it, life is full of winners and losers (even applying for a job results in either winning or losing) so the sooner our children learn to deal with it the easier life will be for them!

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

  11. Kaye says:

    I had no idea they had non-competitive sports days now! How rubbish, surely children need to learn the importance of winning and losing? How odd! #picknmix

  12. I totally agree. It is absolutely ridiculous what has changed at school. I was the same, won some and lost some. I was never a good loser generally and this did me good! Now it’s all about molly coddling and worrying about being too correct and I think the children will suffer in the end. Fab post xx #picnmix

  13. I totally agree. Sport is competitive, why should it be different for children? There were races in my sons sports day, he came last, but he didn’t mind and I just enjoyed watching him, it didn’t matter to me where he came. It is all learning about life.

  14. my girls school had individual races, even races for the toddlers watching, being competitive at sports day is a great way of teaching winning and losing so seems silly not to do it! #picknmix

  15. Tracy Munoz says:

    I totally agree, its a competitive world out there, and it also means that kids who excel in sport and who are possibly not as good in the academic subjects don’t get the recognition they deserve!

  16. ohhh what a tricky one! I think its important for children to experience winning and losing. There is nothing worse than an arrogant child or parent. I cant wait for School Sports Day with my little man – proud times. Nice post 🙂 #PicknMix

  17. Helen Porter says:

    its a good life lesson to win or loose it should make children aspire to be the best they can be, I must admit though it is heartbreaking when your child is the one that isn’t very good like my eldest is just not into sports at all but I want him to learn he cant be good at everything giving them all a certificate doesn’t send out that message at all great post! #picknmix

  18. Great post lovely! I absolutely agree, I’m such a competitive person and was brought up doing lots of sport. I believe that competing helps you learn a lot about yourself and teaches you really important life lessons!!!
    I don’t know why it’s okay for someone to be the best at maths in the class but not the best at sport, competition is everywhere we have to prepare our kids for it!!!

  19. kerry norris says:

    Totally agree with you although I hated sports day at school lol. Children need to be taught discipline and rules and also that they can’t win at everything. Kerry x #PicknMix

  20. Rachel says:

    Totally agree. The whole point of sport is competition. I like your point about it being done for the parents too! #PickNMix xx

  21. Rob says:

    Different country but same issue here in Canada. We had our daughters in soccer, t-ball and hockey and for the first two years they don’t actually keep score. I just don’t get it. Half of playing sports should be about learning to lose gracefully. Great Post. #PoCoLo

  22. Dominique says:

    Here here! I agree with you completely. I always think about job interviews, when we go for one we don’t all get a pat on the back and rewarded. We need to prepare children for real life where competitiveness is a part of the real world whether we like it or not. Thanks for hosting #PicknMixFriday

  23. I completely agree – some kids are good at maths, others sport and it’s a lesson that children need to learn. We all need to play to our strengths. Also it diminishes the achievements of those who do really well. I hate this, it is political correctness gone too far. Well said 🙂

  24. Mummy Fever says:

    I totally agree – my eldest is 8 and she is very sporty and does all sorts. I have also written about this as I think it is really important. #picknmix

  25. I say this at every sports day!! I think it’s totally crazy. You basically typed the exact speech I give lol Thanks so much for hosting #PicknMix x

  26. Becster says:

    My two aren’t old enough for school yet so sports day is not something we’ve done. But I had heard the concept of non-competitive sports days from watching the film Parental Guidance (good film) – I think you’d appreciate Billy Crystal’s rant in it! 🙂 #PicknMix

  27. Emma's Mamma says:

    I agree! I was always the one who came in last during sports days and I don’t think I would have been any happier if it hadn’t been competitive. I was just happy to participate and when I finally did ‘win’ something (I came 3rd in a skiing race and got a medal) I was so chuffed. All sports events when I grew up were competitive and I still loved it, even though I came last most of the time 🙂 #PicknMix

  28. children need to learn that there are going to be some things that they aren’t good at. It will only make them appreciate the things they are that much more

  29. Maria says:

    I completely agree! Children need to learn about winning, losing and taking part – its part of life! We shouldn’t molly coddle them. #PicknMix

  30. What!? Well our children are going to get a shock when they leave school as you say. Particularly if they are good at sports…there’s a lot of losing in sports! What a shame that schools don’t have the confidence in themselves to be able to teach children about everything, including winning and losing. Saying all that though I really hate competitiveness, makes me so stressed out. And I also find it infuriating that sport is put on such a pedestal. A winner in sport can be idolised beyond reality. Talent is a wonderful thing and should be respected (and celebrated, encouraged etc) but it doesn’t necessarily make anyone a better person. I live with sports so perhaps should save all those thoughts for another day! Thanks for hosting #picknmix

  31. I completely agree! For some kids sport is the one thing they really shine at, and they have to give way. Does that happen academically?! I think not …! Great post

  32. In school at home everything is a competition. We have top 10 in class. We award the top 3 best in grade (Year 1-6 in here) and it gives the kids the motivation to study by themselves. That is what I miss and what I want my son to have. A competitive edge. Something that would give him a goal and work on it. So I agree with you on this. #pocolo

  33. Alice says:

    Yup. I am totally rubbish at sports and always have been. I am, thereofre, pretty confident that I never won any races at school, but the fact that I can’t remember means I can’t have been that traumatised by it!
    It is particularly weird to make sport non-competitive when it should be, but we make things like attendance competitive when they shouldn’t be. That one really gets to me!
    x Alice

  34. Sarah Norris says:

    I have very mixed feelings about this as I was the child that never won anything and hated and feared sports. No one knew I needed glasses so I couldn’t see the ball in rounders and cricket etc and got hit by the ball so many times I am still ridiculously ball-shy. As a result I was always the last to be picked for teams, and was shouted at and jeered at for missing catches and shots etc. (I am shrinking inside just remembering )
    Sport for me was miserable torture but no one picked up on how unhappy I was and teachers just pushed me anyway.
    I didn’t need sport to teach me how to be a good winner or a loser, I was just brought up well by parents who supported and respected me, and I am a very well balanced and strong adult. I still hate all kinds of team sports but am the most ‘team minded’ person you could ever come across.
    I know sport can be important, but it is not the only way to become a well rounded adult. xx

  35. I didn’t know that there were other schools not doing a competitive sports day. Thanks God my daughter’s school is not like that. They teach them since Reception years that sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. it is a very important lesson in life. Thanks for hosting, xx #PicknMix

  36. I agree the whole thing is a bit lily-livered. Same at our school and even the kids get fed up with it and say there’s no point. I think once they get to Year 4, they are over the ‘it’s not fair stage’. Same with parties, there was only one winner at pass the parcel in my day, none of this prize in every layer malarkey!

    A bit like Sarah (above), I was rubbish at sports and last to be picked – so I know what that feels like too. All life lessons though.

    Thanks for hosting #picknmix


  37. I agree that there are important lessons to learn. We have a nice mix at our school with team sports where those who are not sporty can feel good and competitive races too. i like having a combination so all children feel engaged. #picknmix

  38. Morna says:

    I totally agree! I remember in my school some of the less academic kids were great at sport and whilst at the time I was cross I wasn’t good academically and good at sport I realise now how important that must have been for them. Also younger kids (my 3 year old in particular) need to learn the life is competitive and you don’t always win- hurrah for fierce competition! #picknmix

  39. Our school still has competitive sports day my girls both got one 2nd place badge each and were over the moon. They couldn’t care less about not actually wining and just had a great time taking part and having a great day with their friends. Gotta say some of those mums and dads are crazy pushy literally screaming at their kids and questioning the teachers why their kid didn’t win. One of the mums practically had a fit at our sports day insisting her kid won the race! Definitely done for the parents the kids couldn’t care less!!

  40. As I said to you on Twitter, this drives me bananas too!!! It’s RIDICULOUS that kids should be ‘protected’ from a bit of competitive spirit! I think children all need to learn that life *isn’t * fair — sometimes there will be people that do better at school, be it sport, academically — from an early age!!

    Particularly as adults there are people who may earn more, have more friends, have better skills than we do — best we learn that young!! It would be a massive shock to the system to find out at adulthood that not *everyone* is a winner! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday — hope to see you again next week! x

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

  41. kelly chapman says:

    Our school still has competitive sports day, but everyone still gets a sticker!! Bobsie for some reason ended up with the skipping race as one of her events (awaiting assessment for dyspraxia so why a race which is hugely weighted in co-ordination skills was thought a good idea!!) and was miles behind the others but the deputy was commentating and gave her so much encouragement, getting the parents to cheer her on to just finish the race which she did with a big smile. Competition is a vital skill in life and one that kids need to learn and the best place to learn it is in a more controlled environment like school where they may not be sporty but are artistic and win an art competition instead. Maybe it’s worth suggesting to the school??

  42. I so agree with this!!! It’s like everyone gets so easily “hurt feelings” these days and this is where this “no competition” is coming from. I swear it’s like we are living in a society of raising a bunch of wusses! Thanks for hosting #PicknMix

  43. Yeah, I agree with you on this although I can see both sides. It’s a tricky one x #PicknMix

  44. We’ve all agreed this as our kids school too. The infants were just doing a round robin of events, not actually proper races. But the juniors were, which was far more exciting for everybody,
    The head master has listened and agreed, so it looks like it will be back to the old fashioned way next year. Sarah #PickNMix

  45. Totally in agreement here, and funnily enough I think most parents are. Why on earth have they brought this in?? Like you mentioned, I do feel for the children who may not be gifted academically and could have one day where they excel at something. It’s a really important life lesson too, you can’t be good at everything and guess what? If you really want to win, you just need to work harder! It’s utter nonsense! (From a Mum of 2, neither who excel at sports). x #picknmix

  46. The Pramshed says:

    I used to love sports day as a child, getting that sticker when crossing the line. Competitive makes it fun, and gives the kids ambition. Non-competitive sports day with no running, is not exciting at all. Claire x #PickNMix

  47. I totally agree! Why would they do that? It makes no sense to me. Alice starts school in September and I have all this to come X #picknmix

  48. I agree! My son’s school has done non-competitive every year for the past three, but this year they’re doing a competitive one – hooray! Kids need to learn how to lose and how to win. It’s character building! #PickNMix

  49. You are right secondary school will be shock because everyone is recognised and rewarded for their achievement and not for just taking part. Children need to be prepared for this with some tough lessons early on to prepare them for this step change. There are winners and losers in life and the sooner they can deal with that the better. It also teaches them to push themselves. Both my kids are always competing with their peers at their secondary schools whether at sport, drama, music or a class project. It is all about delivering your best and aiming higher. #PickNMix

  50. laura dove says:

    I completely agree!! I think it’s wrong that they try and drill it into the kids that there are no winners or losers, because actually – there are! Plus the kids aren’t stupid, they can see with their own eyes who came first and who came last and whether the teachers like it or not, they WILL brag about it later on the playground!! Secondary school is very competitive and those children who have been swept along in the whole “We’re all winners” fakery will struggle to accept that the same doesn’t stand in secondary schools. It’s a fact of life that you cant be good at everything, I think learning that lesson from a young age is so important! #picknmix

  51. charlotte says:

    I had my kids first non competitive sports day this week. It was rubbish and boring. There was no excitement about the whole thing. My daughter is far from sporty, she lacks coordination but she still enjoys racing even if she is last #picknmix

  52. karen says:

    Yup, totally agree with you. I hope they see more sense by the time my little one gets to school. No running, next they’ll cancel it because the risk of food poisening from the eggs they use for the spoon walk! Rah. So annoying. Great post. Tiddlywinks anyone? I’ll win! ~pickNMix

  53. I’m sure I read that children, and boys in particular, need an element of competition to help them thrive, and that by taking it away we are actually hindering their progress. It does make you wonder who and how these policies come about. I remember to this day how elated I felt when I won the monkey race when I was five (was incredibly nervous prior to taking part as I didn’t actually know what a monkey race involved until the crucial moment we were told ready, steady, go). Crazy times we live in #picknmix

  54. Kirsty says:

    I agree. I think it is good for children to learn that they can win and lose, it is a fundamental part of growing up #picknmix

  55. I absolutely agree lovely, the boys’ school is the same. There is a ‘team’ that wins, but they are made up of a huge amount of children and it just isn’t the same and that’s coming from someone who hated sports at school 😉

    Stevie xx

  56. Absolutely agree! I was really crapped academically but I was so looking forward to the Summer term as that meant I was the star of the school as I was really good a sport. I also ran through rain, mud, wind, hail and snow for my cross country too! Sorry but I hope I am not being too rude – this is so ridiculous!! #PicknMix

  57. I absolutely agree with you here – I was pretty rubbish at sport when I was at school but I never felt like a failure on sports day, I accepted that I’m good at some things and not at others. How have we got into a place where all kids have to be winners, what kind of message is that sending to them? Fab post, I think all parents are in agreement here! #picknmix

  58. Yes! Completely agree! The sense of achievement is so important to their self esteem. Even the child who does cross the line last has achieved…they have persevered and not given up. They have been supported and encouraged. Life isn’t all well done and hand outs, they need to learn this and a supportive, competitive sports day is a safe learning environment to introduce them to this type of thinking. Positive Mental Attitude as Linford Christie used to say!!! #picknmix

  59. Totally agree, and glad to say my girls school does competitive sports day. They all work together to raise points for their house team and there is a presentation at the end for the house teams. All the children really get into it. Taking part, winning or losing, they are all really valuable life lessons. #PicknMix

  60. Maria says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this Eilidh! My eldest’s Sports Day was a little bit like this too, there were no real winners they just had to complete the activities. The only difference was there was a relay race in the end in which their class won so I guess that counts as something. #PickNMix

  61. My daughter is in Year One and had her first sports day this year. It was cancelled when she was in Reception due to bad weather. It was such a massive let down, for children and parents. I remember loving sports day and I’m not sporty. When we were little the parents sat down the side of a long running course and various races took place. Everyone would be cheering, parents and pupils, it was exciting. People would cheer louder for the ones coming in last…there was no shame in it.
    My daughter’s sports day however had no atmosphere at all. We watched children walk through various activities with no clear idea of what was going on or the aim of each activity. Noone won a race, they just walked through activities for an hour.
    I also completely agree with your point about sporty children having the chance to excel in something they are good at.
    I am not psychologically scarred by my childhood competitive sports days, in fact I have fond memories of them.

  62. Crummy Mummy says:

    I did a post on the very same subject a few weeks ago – I mean what is the POINT?!! #picknmix

  63. Kate says:

    It needs to cater for all kids and be inclusive. So there should be opportunities for kids to excel from those who are competitive and have excellent ability and skill to those that struggle such as with dyspraxia and may be being bullied at school already (yes it happens). I have one child who always comes first and one who comes last. Kids who are good at sport tend to have more kudos and other kids want to be their friend. They have lots of opportunities throughout the year in team sports and showing their awards in assembly. Kids that don’t have this natural ability can end up being socially excluded and this can cause further problems. I have seen both sides. I don’t think the main aim of sports day should be about winning or losing, I think it should equally be about partaking in sports and keeping healthy oh and having some fun…which is a healthier way of approaching life in my book.

  64. P says:

    My child is gifted and has dyspraxia, so we know about natural abilities and disabilities. Although he loves being physcial as a little kid, when he started school he felt dumb and hated it. He couldn’t draw, cut, or colour, other kids told him his drawings were dumb, he bumped into things and kids, struggled with swimming, getting dressed quickly, and lost at every competitive sport getting told he was below standard. I don’t mind winning and losing for sport. But not all academic learning is turned into winning and losing and public results. How would that feel to the kids who were struggling to read. So yes for the kids that love sport their should be a competitive team and winning and losing teaches skills. But being fit and physical doesn’t have to be a competition, because if you have dyspraxia and you are always the worst it isn’t a lesson it’s demoralising. There should be a place for kids to enjoy riding a bike and running and playing with a ball sometimes with out feeling like a loser, in the same way that reading a book isn’t a competition it’s about the joy of reading. We have social soccer for adults, and we need social soccer for kids who don’t want the pressure they just want to play.

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