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The importance of Competition in Sport
It's been a very long time……. since I was standing poolside in Market Harborough at an Inter-clubs swimming Gala. The swimmers were a mix of boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. As galas go, for the club and me as a Coach it wasn't the most important one. We belong to a few leagues where we try and maximise our points, but this one was a trophy gala before the leagues began. In football terms it would be classed as pre-season friendly.
That night was a first for many. For many it was their first time racing against swimmers from other clubs. It was their first time with swimming officials and referees looking at how they swim. It was their first time pulling on the club shirt and club hat. It was their first time being part of a team, knowing they had a role to play. It was their first time having spectators watching them. It was their first time being in a relay and feeling nervous as their friend is swimming to the wall in the lead and hoping they could keep the lead. It was also a first for our experienced swimmers. It was their first time being captains and role models. It was their first time displaying their skills after 4 years of competing.
The date was March 14th 2020 and little did I realise that would be our last inter-club competition for a long time. As I have been to numerous swimming galas, probably what I didn't realise at the time was, to the swimmer it was the most important competition. To them it was their championships, their Olympics their chance to represent their team.
As a child I was lucky enough to try many sports and I remember the joy of representing my school. There were some sports I was more natural at but it was a great feeling. Not everything went our way, I remember feeling dejected after being beaten 12 nil by our local rivals at football but I remember the successes, good times, even things like the away trip on the school minibus as well.
I am a great believer in that there is a sport for everyone. I don't mean becoming an Olympic champion. I mean taking part in a sport that you can engage with and enjoy. Something that motivates you to improve. Having a competitive side to it, makes it a challenge, and teaches people to strive to be better, to learn to deal with disappointment, to feel pride in being part of a team. It also teaches from a young age fair play and that there is a process to improving and that with hard work and dedication people will improve.
In most sports and especially school sports, competition has changed in the last 12 months. We probably took a netball match between 2 schools for granted, however we still need a way to keep competition in sport available for all pupils. I understand that there may not be the same buzz doing a virtual weekly challenge, however it is important that we engage kids in trying different sports and introducing competition. More often than not, school will be the first place they try a new sport and the first time they feel part of a team.
You never know, you might introduce a sport to a future Olympian, or simply introduce a sport to someone who competes in that sport for the rest of their life and introduces it to their families and friends. Both are as important as each other, but the pride of representing your school or club team is irreplaceable and could be that child's Olympic moment.
P.S. You may have gathered from this I am Head Coach of Hinckley Swimming Club. With no swimming pools open training the kids at the moment is very tough so I am doing Zoom exercise classes twice a week. I have posted a link to the Land Training Sets I do. Please feel free to use these as a resource take bits out etc Click the links Year 5 and Below Class, Years 6 to Year 8 and Year 9 and Above