Excellent piece in Spiked about the banning of competitive sports days in schools. This is an issue that has given much pleasure to the tabloid populists – the other night I saw Richard Littlejohn on Sky News, predictably lapping up this story and echoing the widely expressed view that “It is political correctness gone mad”.
As Duleep Allirajah puts it in his article: “The notion that political correctness has gone mad is a strange anthropomorphism. The implication being that political correctness was once a perfectly sane and reasonable chap who only concerned himself with sensible pursuits, such as hounding Nazis and kiddie fiddlers. But then he suffered a breakdown, perhaps triggered by a humiliating sporting experience, and now Mr PC is a twitching, bulgy-eyed loon who has started stalking innocuous targets such as egg-and-spoon races. But in truth political correctness hasn’t so much gone gaga as gone mainstream. The scrapping of competitive sports is the logical consequence of our therapeutic culture that assumes that children are vulnerable creatures whose self-esteem will be irreparably damaged by sporting failure.
I agree with this — competition-free sport is as useful as alcohol-free beer. However I have some sympathy with one of the decisions of the Midlands headmistress who prompted this row – I can see the reasons for banning parents from sports days.
I once coached a junior football team and despite never having atttended a course in ‘defeat counselling’ had no problems in handling the impact of heavy losses on the egos of 14 year old kids. What I did have a problem with was bawling dads, either bollocking their kids and destroying their will to play the game or muttering about my team selection. The sight of grown men hurling abuse at someone who had voluntarily given up a Saturday morning to referee a kids match is truly disheartening for everyone involved.
If there is any emotional harm caused by youth sport it comes not from losing egg and spoon races but from the screwed up parents who vent their frustrations on their kids.