An Alternative Approach to School based Competition

An Alternative Approach to School based Competition

By Mike Smethurst – Edsential Lead for Competitions and Events

There has been much written about competitive sport in primary schools. Some people argue that a negative experience in competitive sport at a young age will deter that individual from participating again whilst others argue that competition is necessary within PE and School Sport. There is no right or wrong answer!! The important aspect to realise is that every pupil is different and what works for one pupil may be different to what works for another pupil. There are many life skills that pupils will get from competing in sport; teamwork, leadership skills, camaraderie, obeying rules, respecting others, winning and losing gracefully but used in the wrong way to the wrong pupil and the opposite will occur; disengagement, negative mindset, can’t do attitude and failure! Competitive sport definitely has a place in schools but it has to be carefully used!


“The coaching before the event was excellent as for all of my pupils it was the first time they had been to a competition with school”.

From a school point of view it is paramount that pupils at all ages can access a wide variety of sports and access these sports in a wide range of non-competitive and competitive environments. All pupils should be treated as an individual and what works for one pupil will not necessarily work for another.

I believe at a young age competitive sport should be focused on ‘personal bests’. An example of this could be looked at in Athletics. In week one count how many speed bounces  a pupil performs in 20 seconds? In week 4 can the pupil improve their performance? This allows pupils to ‘compete’ against themselves but in a controlled and safe environment where the potential ‘negatives’ of competition are reduced to a minimum. It also allows the pupils to compare themselves to other people in the class in the form of an intra-competition is they want the additional competition.

I believe the majority of negative experiences in competitive sport come from Inter Competitions, where schools compete against other schools. There are many external factors that come into fruition; personal performance, peer pressure, expectations, opposition, pressure from teachers and parents etc. All of the above could have a negative impact on an individual. For the pupil to have a positive experience it is important for the above to be managed.

Competitions at Edsential are delivered in a way that pupils feel they are competing in a safe but competitive environment;

All competitions are open to all abilities, it is not only the ‘elite’ performers that enjoy competition!  Ensuring that fun and participation are at the forefront of competitions, ensures that all pupils despite winning or losing go away with a positive experience.

Where needed rules at Edsential competitions are adapted to ensure that matches are competitive for both teams. It is not beneficial to anyone if someone wins 9-0 in a fixture!

Edsential competitions are also delivered on primary school sites. On occasions the step up from the school playground to a local club setting is sometimes one jump too far and can be off putting for pupils. Competitions based at primary school sites allow the pupils to feel comfortable in the surrounding they are performing in.

“It was great fun and I enjoyed it even if we didn’t win”.

Competition certainly has an important place within primary schools as I feel it develops so many life skills for the pupils. The well structured competition programme that Edsential offers provides all young people the opportunity to take part in competitively in sport ensuring that everyone has a meaningful experience, whatever their age, gender or ability.


For further information please contact:

Mike Smethurst – Edsential Lead for Competitions and Events