Winning is sidelined as children care more about taking part
CHILDREN are at risk of losing their competitive spirit, according to recent studies.
New research indicates a majority of children care less about winning than playing for fun and being with their friends.
Antonio Mantero, a youth soccer coach with Castleknock Celtic Football Club in Dublin, believes that this is not a bad thing for younger children, but that competition can be "healthy" as they get older.
The studies were carried out by the Marylebone Cricket Club in England, and the British cricket charity 'Chance to Shine'.
Mr Mantero (36), who works with children in sport said that "children are naturally competitive, and always will be."
"I think first and foremost that winning and losing is part of the process. But, definitely at the younger ages there shouldn't be competitive leagues as such, so there shouldn't be league tables."
He believes that some of the problems that may arise amongst children and competition stems from adult influences, and that this needs to be managed better.
"We could never change it and never should, competition is healthy. But winning has to come from the kids themselves, it can't come from the adults."
The father-of-one said that he has seen adults on the sidelines who have wanted to win more than the children on the field, and that this prompted him to organise the 'Silent Sideline Weekend' earlier this year, where kids were just encouraged to play.
"We shouldn't take the winning out of the child, but we need to take winning out of the adults," he said.
"Clubs should be looking at in-house blitzes, where they play two hours of non-stop football. It's fun, and the child gets to play games and everyone gets a fair amount of time.
"It's to put emphasis back into the game, which is fun. And, as adults, we have taken that away."
Teresa Heeney from Early Childhood Ireland agreed that "children have a natural competitive instinct from an early age" and that it can have both positive and negative effects on a child's self-esteem.
She also pointed out that many "successful entrepreneurs, athletes, business people" have often cited "the playground or sports field" as the place where they nurtured their leadership and management skills which helped them to succeed.
"Success and failure teach lessons as long as there is a nurturing adult close by to ensure that a child's confidence is always treated with the utmost of care," she added.
She added that encouraging a competitive spirit in younger children could potentially have long-term effects.