The modern trend in sports is to focus on ‘participation’ rather than ‘competition’. Whilst this is well intentioned, it may be doing harm to our kids, especially our young girls.
Participating in sport can teach you plenty of life lessons like discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, health and resilience. However without the ‘competitive’ element, girls in particular may miss out on something they really need – the ability to feel good about being a highly competitive and appropriately aggressive individual.
Historically we have socialized girls to be feminine, good-natured, cooperative people. The result is that many find themselves not wanting to ‘out compete’ somebody for fear of hurting their feelings. On the sports field they strive to be excellent without wanting to be ‘too excellent’. The result is talented girls playing far below their potential.
The answer is expert coaching that teaches girls that really ‘going for it’ on the sports field is acceptable. Teaching them that being a strong, competitive woman does not automatically mean that you are the B word. Unfortunately both men and women too easily refer to strong women with opinions such as this.
We both need to stop.
So… what do we do?
We can start by teaching girls that:
- Being aggressive (within the rules) is acceptable.
- Striving to win is ok.
- Being better than somebody else just means the other person needs to work harder.
- Standing up for yourself is acceptable.
- Being competitive is a positive attribute (and doesn’t make you a bitch)
- It is not embarrassing to give 100% effort.
Importantly we as parents and coaches can make sure that our girls are taught the same life skills, personal qualities and attributes that we teach our competitive boys.
About the author: Nathan Burke started his career as a schoolteacher before the demands of elite level football with St Kilda F.C. took over. Following a successful corporate career he founded Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers High Performance Training and Coaching solutions to corporates, schools and sports teams.