Kate Thompson, Physical Education and Sport Subject Advisor
Like many PE teachers, sport has been a huge part of my life. Some may say I’m a Jack (or Gill) of all trades! Personally, I just like being active, and sport allows me to learn new skills and meet new people. But am I a bit of a one-off? I’m not competitive. In this blog I talk about my own relationship with sport and how teachers can encourage students who don’t thrive on competition.
I don’t play to win, I join in for the enjoyment, the personal challenge and to give my training a purpose. That’s not to say I don’t admire those who have the competitive streak within them, but it just isn’t me.
How many people go to the gym, go for a run, swim, play in the local league once a week because they enjoy it, but don’t ever see the fruits of their labour in an ‘event’ situation?
Does passion and competition go hand in hand in a sporting environment? I often ask myself the questions ‘would sport/activity be more fun if I were competitive?’, ‘am I not as passionate, is that why I don’t get competitive?’ and ‘is there something wrong with me?’
I am fortunate that a lot of my friends are enjoy sport and activity. The majority, like me, have enjoyed success to varying levels within competitive arena. So when we play together and their competitive side comes out they think it’s funny that I don’t get drawn into that winning mentality. I will play to the best of my ability but I don’t beat myself up when I miss a putt in golf or get tackled or when someone sprints past me in the last 50m of park run or a trail run.
I do think competition is good for everyone as it teaches us humility, grace and resilience. In primary school the pupils compete in all manner of subjects, not just in PE. In the playground with their friends they play tag, stuck in the mud, football, and all of these activities have a competitive side.
In lessons I would award points for each position in a running race. Obviously first over the line gets the biggest number, but even last to cross that line gets 1 point. Why? Because I think it teaches them that even though they didn’t come first they still tried their hardest and they didn’t give up.
I’ve recently been trying to teach my six-year old nephew how to play draughts. I set out the basic rules and he will try - I give him second chances at moves so that he can learn but inevitably he’ll try to bend the rules to suit himself, a bit like snap! I’m not playing to win but I’m also not going to let him just cheat. He now understands a little more about why we have rules in games and how it doesn’t matter if he’s not the best. The fact that he has got better and knows why he can’t keep changing the rules is a win for me. I’ll tackle snap another day!
I like a ‘trier’ - someone who will have a go regardless of their own personal situation. There are obviously times when this isn’t possible but then I find another way for them to be part of the lesson.
I think as a whole we have got better at inclusion. I ran an after-school club called Walk & Talk, which was exactly what it says. I had girls who weren’t interested in team activities who’d come along and enjoy being with a group. I soon found them jobs within PE, such as looking after the notice boards, kit monitor, team checker. It gave them a sense of belonging to a group, a new-found confidence.
There is so much we can offer to our students to help guide them to a more active lifestyle. This is an interesting article from Sport England on how we need to link the physical and the mental health benefits and preventative functions of being active.
Park Run UK, the free weekly 5km run, also encourage everyone to become part of the family. As they say ‘a 5km walk is the same distance as a 5km run’. So true, and this is what we need to be encouraging. Just being active is better than sitting on the sofa.
My mum always said when I was representing my school in every sport possible, ‘it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’. And to this day I truly believe this.
I’ve used this mantra throughout my teaching career. I want the children and young people I interact with to be active and enjoy themselves. I realise that everyone is different: not everyone likes sport, team games or even being active.
We want to encourage everyone to develop active habits that can last a lifetime. Surely our job as educators is to show what’s available to students? Not all sport has to be competitive and as an individual it’s about what finding what is enjoyable and works for you.
I will continue to enjoy my sport my way and be a role model to my nephew and niece, showing them that being active and enjoying yourself whilst you play sport makes a happy person.
If you have any questions, you can email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_PhysEd. You can also sign up to subject updates to receive information about resources and support.
Kate joined OCR as a PE and sport subject advisor in November 2021 having taught in a variety of primary and secondary schools for over 17 years gaining experience and subject knowledge. During this time, she set up and delivered a range of courses within PE. She has also worked in sports development for a not-for-profit organisation in South Africa increasing the sports access in township schools. In her spare time Kate enjoys being active, travel and photography.