…today I’m not talking about religion.  Well, not Christianity, anyway.

CallMeDave, it appears, has had an epiphany and is now a convert to the Church of Sport, Competitive.

Which is fine, and I wish him every success.  Unfortunately, like a lot of converts, he can’t resist doing a bit of proselytisation.  And after a good couple of days of deliberation, he’s announced that everyone in school has to do lots more competitive sport.

Now, fortunately, he’s working from a Daily Mailesque world where all the wicked lefty schools have long abandoned any competitive sports and give everyone prizes for turning up.  Now, if anyone does know of such a school, could they let me know so that if necessary I can send my kids there?

Dave seems confused.  On the one hand, he wants to raise new elite athletes.  This is all very well, but it’s obvious that you don’t achieve that by sending kids whose talents lie elsewhere round and round the football pitch in a meaningless quest for a touch of the ball.  So we’re being told it “builds character”.

Does he have any evidence whatsoever from this?  Given the correlation I noticed between being amongst the best rugby players in the school and being an arrogant bullying arsehole, I’m not convinced that the character it builds is particularly desirable.  It’s an old lie that the sports-mad establishment has trotted out for generations as justification for making kids who have neither aptitude nor interest in team sports get beaten up, abused and generally made to feel as much use, and as welcome, as a condom machine in a Catholic nunnery.

I have no objection to competitive sports for those who will benefit from them.  And that’s not everyone.  I know for a fact I didn’t – all I got out of it was neurosis and an abiding hatred of changing rooms.  Which brings me on to the last justification that’s given – children’s fitness.

There may indeed be a problem here.  It isn’t going to be addressed this way.  An unterested, unwilling child is not going to get much of a work out from aimlessly jogging about a football pitch whilst his more talented “teammates” avoid letting him get the ball because they might as well just kick it straight to the opposition.  And the moment he’s allowed to drop the whole sport “thing” at 16, he will.  Like a hot potato. There’s everything to be said for encouraging children to be active, and to develop an active lifestyle that they will carry on into adulthood.  This will not have that effect.  Quite the reverse, in fact – We’re told that 50% of girls are put off sport by PE. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17873519) – I suspect that a good proportion of boys are as well.  Why would you take an active interest in a field where you’ve been routinely taught you’re useless and humiliated in front of your peers on a regular basis?

Competitive team sports are a hobby.  So are trainspotting and aquarium keeping.  We don’t expect everyone to share our enthusiasm for our hobby – why do sportsmen expect us to share theirs?  Competitive team sports are a tiny subset of sport in general, which is a small subset of physical activity in general.  The emphasis on them tarnishes the image of sport in particular and physical activity in general for those who found them a weekly torment.

So, Dave, if you must do this, don’t do it in this damned silly way.

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