You’re eighth, you’ve just lost miserably at the egg and spoon race and begin to cry. It’s humiliating, devastating and just not fair – and then you get a participation medal. Whilst the premise is good, awarding children for trying, taking part,making an effort, it stops the tears and gives them some sense of pride. I can’t help but wonder whether this is really the right thing to do. Encouraging competitiveness is so beneficial, not just in sports but in all aspects of life. If children grow up believing that they don’t have to be the best to get the reward they won’t work hard. They won’t push themselves to be the best, even just the best within themselves because, in their eyes, there is no need. They’ll get what they want for just taking part. This may seem like a bit of an overreaction but it’s proven that the tiniest things in a child’s upbringing can stick with them throughout their lives. Lessons installed at a young age are not easy things to shake. And what about the winner? What is it teaching them? That even when you work harder, push yourself further, you won’t get anything more than the losers. With all this political correctness we could be molding a generation of unmotivated children who expect it all for just taking part.
But, there is a fine line between encouragement and force. Every sports day has that crazy parent, screaming from the sidelines, engraining into their child that losing is not an option. People, especially children, should play competitive sports because of the enjoyment they gain from it, not because of the obscene amount of pressure placed upon them by competitive crazed parents.
And, then you look at the Olympics you expect brute competitiveness, stressed out athletes and sore winners and losers. But this isn’t the case at all – well most of the time. Although, the competitive aspect of the Olympics is obviously at its peak, the sportsmanship shown by opposing athletes is amazing, congratulating their opponents on winning, taking it on the chin when losing (or at least appearing to) and supporters and competitors from different countries coming together to cheer it all on. Maybe this is how sports should be – working hard to get the gold, but ultimately, bringing people together – win, lose or participate. Of course, Olympians do get a participation medals behind the scenes, but that’s not the point.