As Richard Nixon once said…..

…..”I don’t know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports” and I tend to believe with him, which may be a little bit controversial these days.

A week or so ago, Little Man came home from preschool full of tales about they had been ‘doing races’ and that he was ‘the green winner’.  We know not to take his word as gospel so congratulated him enthusiastically whilst holding off on booking him in for an intensive course at Lea Valley Athletics Centre.

A few days later, he wanted to play race with Big Man and myself so we duly obliged.  I won (Oh yes, no mercy here), Little Man was 2nd and his Daddy was 3rd (what a loser!) but Little Man suddenly came out with the gem ‘We’re all winners’.  Ahem, no sonny, not in this house we’re not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to suggest that anyone who doesn’t come 1st should have their spirit crushed and I firmly believe in praising everyone who has taken part. However, I think that this can be achieved whilst still enforcing the idea that there is an ultimate winner, and worthy runners-up, and that striving to reach the goal of winning is not a bad thing.

Not long after this, notification came, in the form of a child-like endearing newsletter (Comic Sans font no less!) that there was going to be a Sports Day.  Unfortunately, Big Man had unmoveable work appointments that morning, but I was able to reschedule a client so that I could be there to cheer him on.

As the day approached, Big Man and I discussed how we thought the event would run. The newsletter had mentioned ‘a medal and small prize for everyone’ and we were dreading the thought that they were promoting the idea that nobody really ‘won’.  We even made plans for how we would try & explain the concept of winning to him at a later date.

Well, the morning came and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that they were quite clearly awarding places of 1st, 2nd and 3rd with respective shiny stickers.  (The egg & spoon race was actually particularly competitive with two ‘heats’ before a final race between the top placed 6!)

I got talking to the lady sat next to me (who had a newborn baby with her which was obviously lovely) and she told me that this preschool is more or less the only one locally to do this and that most have the children compete in teams with the result being shared amongst the entire team, no matter the individual success/failure. Personally, I think this is a shame, although I know I may well be in the minority.

True to their word, at the ‘prize-giving ceremony’, after the winners medals had been handed out, everyone else was given a medal and a sticker saying they ran in a race, followed by a yummy rocket ice lolly!

I’m going to include some obligatory pictures because, well, it’s my blog and I want to!

Lined up ready for the 100m Sprint!

Wearing a Fireman Sam helmet for the 'Hat Race'

Just chillin' with ma rocket lolly & ma medal.....innit?

I’m interested to know, what are your thoughts on encouraging a competitive nature (or not!) in your children?

Thanks for reading,




About Leopardprintandgin

Mid 30's, mother to an increasingly cheeky son, wife to a decreasingly patient man, and instead of 'Keep Calm and Carry On' my mugs are emblazoned with 'Now Panic and Freak Out' and 'Stay Stressed then Give Up'. That just about sums me up! Email me on:

8 responses »

  1. I think there is room for competition as long as it is done fairly and all areas are included not just the sporty ones, it would feel very unjust to give a 1st prize for running if you didn’t for other subjects.

    For this reason I’d not promote it in pre-school children as I find it hard to think that prizes would be issued for a child being the first to write their name or recognise colours or numbers.

    That said, I don’t think it does any real harm, it just feels a bit unfair.

    • Beth, I can understand your point about it being appropriate to encourage ‘winning’ in all areas, not just sports and, ultimately, I agree with you. However, I think that, whilst you are right that rewarding a child for being the first to write their name or identify colours etc would not be beneficial at this age, I still feel that competition in sports can be encouraged as they are, by their very nature, competitive and abilities tend to be on a more level playing field at a young age.

      • I guess for transparency I should mention that I am a very non-competitive person, I have never felt the need to compete for anything (although I do work hard, it just doesn’t bother me if someone else is better) so that probably colours my view. I also have spina-bifida and a tethered spinal cord myself, running is just not going to happen for me!

        I have one child who could easily win speed based races (now at 8 and at age 3) and one with hypermobility who’d try hard but be let down by his body, I also work in a mainstream pre-school with a fair proportion of disabled children.

        I guess on reflection given the number of stickers we give out we reward children for a whole range of things so there’d be no harm in doing so in a more individual way for sports day.

        Looks like your little man had a great day. 🙂

      • Thank you Beth, you’ve encouraged me to look at it from another perspective too. I guess these things are never black & white 🙂 He did enjoy himself, thanks x

  2. I believe that every child should be congratulated for taking part. That builds confidence and makes each child feel included. However the winner is the winner. The best at that particular event, whether it be sports or an academic subject and for that they should be congratulated, paraded as a winner and encouraged to continue.

    Later in life there are definite winners, although the scope of subjects in which you can be a winner broadens considerably life in general remains a competition.

    So.. we must seek a middle ground. The ground between not celebrating a winner for fear of other children feeling left out and the ground of the pushy parents who raise the children you often see paraded on tallent shows.

    • Martin, you’re definitely correct about needing to find a middle ground. There’s a very fine line between a healthy sense of competitiveness with a drive to succeed and a skewed sense of the importance of winning at all costs. As you say, life is a competition, in all aspects and preparing for that can never begin too soon in my opinion.

  3. I think we calibrate these things against our own experiences as pupils. That said, my primary school had teams – red, green, yellow and blue – and individual places counted towards a team total. It combined individual effort with a team ethic. It prepared us for secondary school and the house system too! This is as much as 35 years ago btw.

    Nowadays I think the focus, rightly, is on taking part, having fun and getting a bit of exercise. My son came third in his sprint last Thursday. He likes sport and rued not doing better but that’s his own belief system. Other kids who didn’t make the podium may not care less, but that’s fine too.

    • Thank you HUN, I certainly think you’re right about our own experiences playing an important part in our feelings now. I remember well competing in athletic events for my school & the sense of pride I felt when I won a medal or trophy for the cabinet, so I’m sure this has shaped my viewpoint today.

      At my secondary school we also had houses (red, yellow, green & blue too!) & ‘house points’ were awarded for various achievements; academic & creative as well as sporting. I agree with you that individual successes contributing to a team ethic is a very good thing.

      I’m interested to know, do you think a competitive edge should be introduced at any point in the school environment, or should it be purely for those who choose to pursue their particular hobby in an extra-curricular manner? My concern is that, without encouraging a healthy amount of competition (where those who take part are still encouraged & rewarded) we can’t hope to produce athletes capable of competing in the world arena or even adults who wish to strive for the best in their careers.

      Maybe I’m over-thinking it all though…..

      P.S. Well done to your son! 🙂


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