Ensuring Every Child Wins: Should We Eliminate Competition From Childhood?

I just listened to a story posted by a CBC Radio show out of Vancouver called This is ThatThis satirical radio show made an excellent illustration of how far removing competition from sports could go. They spoke of an “athletic association” who decided to remove the ball from soccer. Although a hilarious concept, the truth is, this message is not far off from the current mentality of some Canadians. I’m sad to say that ball-less soccer might not be too far behind decisions like removing competition from sports.

As an arts & leadership educator for over 15 years, I have spent my entire career focusing on preparing kids for success in life. The choice of this athletic association to remove scoring from soccer in many ways does the exact opposite!

Life is competitive and with the job market now global, young people need to learn a new level of competitiveness in order to stand out and ultimately find success. If children are growing up with competition being removed from their learning how are they supposed to compete in the working world when they graduate university?

It is our job as adults to teach our children that competition is a normal part of life and to give them strategies to cope with that reality. Removing competition from childhood may temporarily increase a child’s self-esteem, but in the long run it does them a disservice because it doesn’t give them the chance to practice winning and losing, which is an everyday part of adulthood.

Children need to learn these crucial leadership skills under the supervision of caring educators and coaches who can help them navigate the ups and downs of competition. That way they will have had practice for the real thing when they get older.

Competition is often a natural part of the arts and I think it is a good thing! You compete for parts in the school play, first chair in orchestra or for the solo in a dance performance. When children learn that life isn’t always fair and that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, they are learning about life. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes competition goes too far and can put unnecessary pressure on a child. But a healthy dose as a way of practicing for the realities of adulthood is extremely important.

Some questions to think about….

  1. Are helicopter parents shielding their children from the pains of competition?
  2. What will happen to those children when they have to compete for jobs later?
  3. Is it that our educators and coaches don’t have the time to reinforce healthy competition?
  4. Are we thinking long-term when we make choices like removing competition from childhood?

There is a reason that young people are graduating university, can’t get a job and move back home with mom and dad. It starts with underdeveloped leadership skills. I hope my fellow Canadians will wake up and realize that there is much more we need to be doing to prepare our children for success in life.

To listen to the story click here!

I would love to know what you think. Please share your comments below.