Sir Roger Bannister on competitive sport in schools: Children don’t suffer if they come second

The Telegraph is reporting comments from Sir Roger Bannister that children do not suffer emotional harm from coming second, made as he spoke out for competitive sport in schools and condemned the selling of playing fields…

Sir Roger, the Olympian who rose to world fame after breaking the four-minute-mile barrier in 1954, said he felt “terribly strongly” about the importance of physical education in school, adding that he felt changes in teaching were “worrying”.

He said prejudice against competitive sport had grown in recent decades, as a result of suggestions that it was “bad for character”. Sir Roger said experience had taught him children enjoy healthy competition, and rise to the challenge of a variety of sports to find the prospect of winning and losing “exciting”.

Speaking at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, Sir Roger added: “Children like competing. They don’t suffer an emotional crippling for life if they come second or third in the egg and spoon race.”

The former athlete also spoke out against the selling of school playing fields, and warned that the way PE is taught risks putting children off sport.

In his new autobiography, Twin Tracks, he urges the Government to recognise the importance of sport across all areas of society, and avoid the “destructive neglect” of allowing schools to discard daily exercise. Sir Roger, who served as the first chairman of the Sports Council after retiring from athletics, as well as working as a neurologist, told an audience: “In some schools, PE can be easily got out of; it’s not attractive because there’s no competition; or they have to get on a bus somewhere to get there because their playing fields have been sold off to fund a computer room. So they’ve got 20 minutes out of an hour and a half period actually doing PE.”

In his book, he points to changes in teacher training in the Fifties, as well as “more liberal concepts” that took hold in the Eighties about the negative impact of failure…

More at: No ’emotional crippling’ if child comes second: Bannister

Do you think there is a prejudice against competitive sports in schools now? Last week we covered a report suggesting the majority of children would  be “relieved or not bothered” if the competitive element was removed from sport. Should we respect their wishes or is Sir Roger right to want to encourage more competition? Please let us know in the comments, via Twitter and by taking part in our poll…

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  1. JulesDaulby

    suzyg001 SchoolsImprove
    People seem to worry about failure in sport but not in academic subjects – bottom sets are damaging IMO

  2. jeeznotuagain

    SchoolsImprove I used to generally come last. Did not like it. Survived, but still actively engage in very little sport.

  3. SarahEArmitage

    SchoolsImprove Sir Roger’s mindset was his competitive edge in sport, this needs to be explored and taught

  4. MarkPTrotter

    suzyg001 SchoolsImprove some one has to be last because it is a performance table – consistently last special measures or relegation

  5. MarkPTrotter

    SchoolsImprove true they suffer if they don’t participate, develop and then compete against them self,

  6. MarkPTrotter

    garrodt SchoolsImprove children don’t suffer coming in last if it is used to support personal development

  7. OldIsYouthFC

    garrodt SchoolsImprove couldn’t agree more!!! Are we preparing our kids for future if don’t experience failure & motivation to do better?

  8. VictoriaJaquiss

    tennismeg SchoolsImprove Coming second (& last) a different matter if in one of two teams. Coming last of many on a regular basis, so sad.

  9. tennismeg

    VictoriaJaquiss SchoolsImprove 1/2 my dissertation concluded that PE teachers believe extroverts and talented pupils will strive…

  10. tennismeg

    VictoriaJaquiss SchoolsImprove 2/2 introverts and pupils who struggle with PE will recluse further creating participation issues.

  11. garrodt

    seusssl:SchoolsImprove .no .they suffer if they constantly come last or near to last!!Oh dear I said that- now the physco mumblers emerge

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