Today the AFL announced that its junior football league will no longer include a scoreboard, ladders or match results. The AFL is introducing the scoring ban in order to eliminate the idea of competition and replace it with a general encouragement for participation. I’m a 21, which means I partially grew up in this era of ‘everyone-is-a-winner’. And you know what? I want competition back.
I accept that what the AFL, other sporting groups and education systems are attempting to do is coming from a good place. They’re considering the overall well-being of children, which is to be applauded. What I don’t accept is that competition should be eliminated. Although protecting children from moments of doubt and low self-esteem may be important, it’s not preparing them for the real world which exists in a constant state of antagonism. Whether competition is innate within human beings or a product of society, it defines our world. We compete for jobs and property. We compete for the best tickets to Coldplay’s concert. And most obviously, we compete for partners. Children will inevitably be exposed to this. And I believe, the sooner they do, the better they’ll cope as functioning adults.
As I kid I competed in dancing eisteddfods. Can you picture the reality TV show, ‘Dance Moms’? That’s not a ridiculously farfetched example of how I spent my weekend, minus the crazy Mum. The only advice my Mum gave me was,”smile and don’t fall over”. Sweet, huh. However, dancing competitions prepared me to cope with losing, and more importantly, losing in public. At the end of each section, the other dancers and I would sit out in the audience with our Mums as the adjudicator would announce the winner. The adjudicator would often very directly reveal their opinions; the inappropriate costume of ‘Number 4’, and the poor technique of ‘Number 11’. It was sometimes humiliating, and others totally thrilling, but because of it I’m a stronger person.
As a young adult in a living in a capital city, jobs in January are scare. Most students return from their parents couches to ‘the real world’ where Tuesday night beers, dinners of two-minute noodles and assignments until 4am are a given. Everyone needs a job, and there’s great competition. I got turned down face-to-face numerous times. The same goes for internships. As an eager journalism student in an era of complete media-unknowingness, they are enormously competitive. I am one of 400 kids in my university course in a city with five universities that offer journalism, and the ABC release six internship programs each year. That’s the time when my eisteddfod days return to me. I get competitive. And if I’m turned down? I’m resilient.
Every child should feel they’re a winner, because in essence, they are. Despite what school or sport dictates, every child had a gift for something special and should deserve recognition. In an era of constant protection, however, kids need to learn about real life. They need to be exposed to competition, disappointment, frustration and loss. Why? Because life is full of scorecards and ladders.