Sports Competition for Young Students – Good or Bad?

Today on the news, it was reported that SANFL – South Australian Football are going to remove goal scoring for the junior students who play local football. I am writing to express my opinion on this matter, and in fact on the matter of not having healthy competition in the schooling curriculum.

I have been employing people for over 30 years, and during this time, I have seen a dramatic change in the young people I employ. Like anything not is all good, nor all bad. However I do feel that as a society we are creating a really unfair situation for many young people.

I would like to express why I believe getting back to healthy competition is essential for the future well being of our society.

When a student is at school they get a wide range of teacher assessment and scoring. Some are better in one subject than another. Some students excel in one or more areas, and yet may be very poor in other areas. Students know what they are good at, and they like to succeed. For some students , this may be the only place they find a sense of fulfilment or success. Not all students have the same background – for some, they have never seen success or the healthy celebration of success in their home life. For others, they have never seen loss or failure and the ability to handle this in their home life.

Like so many aspects of a young persons life – the school is being asked to step in.

The biggest shock I saw was a few years ago. I employed a young person, just out of uni. He had studied well at school and did well at uni, but his ability to put into action, or even to be socially acceptable in general body care – was far from satisfactory.  After about 3 months of trying to coach this person around – I finally realised that the energy being expended on this one person was detracting from the rest of my staff, and I was forced to face the fact, that it was too much, and I had to let them go.

For this young person, being dismissed was a total shock. They had no concept, that failing to achieve in a business sense, could mean being fired. They had no ability on how to deal with criticism, or to deal with the loss of a job.

As a host mum of international students, I see a wide range of teenage boys, around 16-18 years old. Some are well balanced, some spoilt, some naive etc. I am going to discuss 3 boys here, without names to show differences.

The best balance in a young person I have seen is one young man, who is very active in sports, has learnt to socialise (probably because he is the youngest member in a good size family), and has learnt to take criticism. If he gets bad criticism, he listens, learns and then considers how to apply this new knowledge. If he succeeds, he also reviews, takes pleasure and has learnt to be humble about success. His success in sports has been applied to his life, in schooling, health, family and friends.

The worst balanced young man I have seen, is a very spoilt young man, whose parents have protected him from knowing he is failing in his study and to help cover this up, sent him to Australia to study here. This boy had no concept of passing and failing. He would not anything that may have a pass or fail associated with it, as the fear of failure was so high. He had no idea of life, or budgeting, or eating healthy, or cleanliness. He was totally pampered and protected from everything.

Now for a boy in the middle, he has some wonderful skills, but applying them, has not as yet given him the sort of accolades he desires. He struggled to start with, many failed subjects, but with some investment by family and self, he has totally turned his results around. He is now succeeding at school, feeling much better about himself, and is a really lovely person in general, and one I am sure will soon be getting the accolades he deserves.

The interesting life differences I have seen in the boys are that those who have learnt to learn from failure, and to desire success, has made them very strong, independent, positive young men. I am not saying that they are perfect – they are teenagers, but they do not go into fits of depression if they fail, they assess and work out how they can do better next time.

I believe we have taken away too much competition as it is. The fact is that the commercial world is competitive and we have to compete internationally. We need our youth to understand competition, to know how to handle a loss or failure. We need our youth to know how to handle success and how to grow on this, without being obnoxious. It is our social responsibility to give our youth a fair chance. To do less, we are failing our next generation. As it is, I don’t think we are helping them as much in this area as we can.

Some people may say – that’s fine, but what if they lose every week for years. Well I have two things to say to this. Firstly this is part of the lesson of losing. Are they losing because they are just not good, or for some other reason. If a child is just not good enough to do a sport – let them try another sport – in the end the child will excel in some form of extra curricular activity. If your child is good at the sport but the team is not supporting this – find another team. What if they win too easily – this is just as bad. You need your child to be challenged, so once again, look into this. Consider increasing the level of competition or request this from the club or coach.

So to those on SANFL – please reconsider. We as a society need our youth to have healthy competition and sports is a great way for them to learn about success and failure. Help us to grow the next generation.


Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.



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