Competition: Preparing Students for the Real World

Typically, when I am writing my Gopher PE Blogs, I prefer to pose a topic that encourages professional debate and ultimately causes educators to reflect on their own professional practices and foundational principles (check out my previous blogs).  Normally, I don’t give a solid opinion, I just share perspectives and facts…until now.  Today I’d like to discuss why PE/Wellness Classes SHOULD be incorporating competition into their programming.

 Competition sign

For quite some time many of our national youth athletic associations across the U.S. and even our own K-12 educational systems have been minimizing and decreasing the element of competition.  Think about all of the local youth athletic leagues that we all know.  These leagues typically don’t keep score of the games, they usually give out trophies for participation, and they normally do not recognize championship teams at the end of the season. We all can probably name at least 2-3 local examples, if not more, where children are taught that competition is not necessary.  And for some reason, our PE/Wellness classes (along with many other academic disciplines) have adopted this “no compete” model.  This is acceptable in the primary levels and the early elementary grades; however, competition is healthy and a necessary life skill, especially as children grow into adulthood.   Competition is a core concept in the real world, even if many choose not to embrace that idea.

The truth is we ALL compete on a daily basis.  Think about it for a moment; examples of competition are all around us.  Each and every day we are all trying to find the best parking spots, the shortest lines at stores, the cheapest prices for virtually any product from candy to cars; small but concrete examples.

Now jump further into the real world. We all compete for companions, husbands, wives, etc…and most importantly, 99% of us compete for that coveted job that will pay our mortgages, car payments, utility bills, etc…  In the real world when you compete for a promotion or job there is one person who “wins” and a bunch that do not get the gold medal.  Competition is a fact of life that everyone should probably embrace, albeit they should ideally learn this competition at a progressive and age-appropriate pace throughout their K-12 careers and beyond…

How does this competitive concept tie into PE classes? Simple.

  • Contemporary 21st Century PE/Wellness classes are a great segue way into safe, friendly, sportsmanlike challenges and they can be critical launching points for competition.  I fully understand that most districts and schools do not allot adequate time for PE/Wellness classes for students.  Therefore sitting out of blocks of time for not winning is not acceptable and nor should it be.  “Losing” is not a reason for kids to sit out of class; EVERYONE should be active 99.9% of the class.  Creative PE teachers can incorporate all sorts of ways to include all of their students during the active sessions of current PE/Wellness programming.
  • For the traditional sports classes, it is very appropriate to run a round-robin or two-sided tourneys that have brackets which direct students, duos and/or teams to progress through the tournament depending on who they’ve played, defeated, and lost to in the intra-class tournament.  This is “real life” application.
  • In the more cutting edge fitness classes, it is perfectly acceptable to have the students track how many exercises they have conducted.  Whether it be via numbers (ex: push-ups, crunches, Jumping Jacks, etc…); repetitions (either in resistance, weight, or time,  lifting weights, nautilus, or cardio activity); or in measurable fitness activities (ex: cardio machines, physical pursuits, walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, etc…) all of these actions/movements have some sort of evaluative component where competition in PE can be monitored.

I wholeheartedly recognize that competition is not the “end all be all” in PE/Wellness programming, nor should it be.  In fact, some professionals feel it has no place at all in these types of classes.  However, competition is a necessary life skill that we ALL need to learn to succeed in the real world.  It can even increase participation and make many classes more fun and exciting.

What are your thoughts as a professional?  Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about competition in PE/Wellness programming…

 

Peter is the Director of Athletics at Milford Public Schools in Milford, MA. Previously he was the Elementary Principal & K-12 Wellness Coordinator in Canton, MA and was the Massachusetts K-12 Wellness Director of the Year in 2011-2012.

Peter is the Director of Athletics at Milford Public Schools in Milford, MA. Previously he was the Elementary Principal & K-12 Wellness Coordinator in Canton, MA and was the Massachusetts K-12 Wellness Director of the Year in 2011-2012.

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