Since when did school sport become so soft?




I have 3 boys and they are wild and funny and free. And I’ve allowed them to be!

We play a lot of sport. Rugby League, AFL, touch footy, cricket and whatever else they ask for. I will never say no to sport! Afterall, that’s what I need to do with my boys – keep them active, keep them moving… I don’t want them inside playing computers and punching each other. I want them outside, playing and joining in. I want them to be a part of a team.

Last week our school won a spot in the grand final for AFL (named the Paul Kelly Cup). It’s a really big deal in Wagga. It means the school goes through to the grand final being played tonight at a high school event under lights. Can you imagine how excited the kids are? Under lights? In a grand final? They are even being mentioned on TV and the radio! They are pumped!

But, on the eve of the grand final the kids were given a ‘dressing down’ by teachers and their excitement was squashed… 5 days AFTER their win last week the kids were told their “behaviour on the field in a game last week was disgraceful“. They were told they didn’t need to high 5 and clap each other on the back after every goal, they weren’t at the MCG and it was embarrassing they got so pumped up. Huh?

Yes, that’s just how you squash a child’s spirit. I was dumbfounded! The round robin event last week was based on for and against ie. they had to win by certain margins to put them through to the next level. And so the children did. They kept winning and winning… I know in one particular game the opposing children were not very gentlemanly and were using some bad language and coming in late on tackles which did make our boys fired up – but certainly not in a questionable manner! They were even more determined to win by a huge margin to put themselves ahead. It was motivation.

When did school sport become so soft? Why would they be told they showed “bad sportsmanship” for winning and being excited and cheering and clapping and yelling?

I have had a conversation with a lot of the parents at that game and not one parent believes our children did anything wrong.

I was not the greatest at sport when I was at school. I was always in the 2nd’s or 3rd’s for netball. I was never in the top team. But it never worried me. I was good at other things. I could swim good. I was good at debating and public speaking. But no one ever squashed my spirit. I was taught to be competitive, but fair. I was taught to always do my best and be happy for others. My Mum and Dad came to every event, and they always wanted me to try my best.

I will not tell my children to tone down their competitiveness. I will tell them to go for gold. I tell them NEVER to swear, but always play fair. Never play dirty. BUT always do your best. That’s just what team sport is all about. Encourage your mates, support them and get amongst it. Follow the lead of your coach and listen to their instructions. School yard comradery is so important.

Winning isn’t everything. I know that. I’m not silly about it, afterall he is only 12. I would be angry if he was a bad sport. But he’s not, and never will be. He’ll just solider on to the next game with the same positive attitude. He played 11 games of football last week (over 6 days) and he didn’t win them all! Heck, I was even THE biggest loser on a reality tv show and I was never a bad sport about it. I’m still positive and moving forward.

Why are we getting so soft with school sport? Why can’t the kids play to the best of their ability? Why are we not even scoring anymore for little kids?? Why can’t we teach kids how to be resilient when they lose? Why can’t we celebrate their wins?

Until my boys tell me they don’t want to play sport anymore I will continue to be involved and supportive. I will kiss their faces when they win, I will rub their sore muscles, I will be positive and encouraging when they lose. I will never be disappointed in them.

I’ve told my son to go out there tonight and play as hard as he can. Play your absolute best. Cheer on your mates. Talk to them on the field and support each other. Listen to your coach and your captain. Go for it!

Win or lose, we don’t care, just don’t ever squash a child’s spirit…


UPDATE: And they WON!


Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece on my personal blog and I do not represent anyone else.


  • Tim Treweek

    That’s the spirit .A healthy, competitive perspective is a passion and confidence for excelling, exceeding, growing and achieving. It is the drive within to be stronger, better and more confident. As parents, you want your children to be happy and to bring out their very best.

  • Judie Loveday

    Sport in general became soft when it became “every child gets a medal”.

    • Brendon Ross

      I couldn’t agree more. Since some people started complaining about how “its bad for the childs mental and emotional growth if they aren’t given a fair chance” they started to soften up all grade school sports. I lost loads when I was little and I think I turned out alright!

  • Susan Blesing

    Beautifully written Katrina. So tired of where we are headed with all the OTT political correctness. I guess some would say there is a fine line, however a child’s ‘genuine’ enthusiasm should never be squashed. Hope it all goes well…good luck to the team! I hope you are feeling a little better and everything is healing well…take care.

  • Katrina Chambers

    Thanks Susan Blesing. I won’t get to see them play tonight because I look a little scary! Not as sore today but swollen. Xx

  • Amanda Hockley

    Well said, we need to teach our children resilience. I will be cheering just as loud tonight, but for the other team. Go Kooringal

  • Katrina Chambers

    And you’re right Amanda Hockley. We’re all friends there tonight. The boys all play together on the weekend and we all love a good bit of comepition. It’s good for the kids!

  • Rebecca Braid

    Spot on!

  • Debbie Vanoostveen

    Brilliant I just has this argument with our footy club going to share☺

  • Penny barns

    Absolutely crazy.
    At our primary school. Athletics carnivals. They give the kids all a 1st,2nd,3rd,4th and competitors ribbon …. So no one gets left out !!!!!!!
    Does my head in….
    Not that my son cares….. But it’s not the point. Kids need to be awarded for being the best at something. What ever it may be. They don’t give everyone the same mark when it comes to maths or english….

  • Jay Kaye

    Couldn’t agree more. Both my boys play soccer and I get that it’s all about having fun to start with and not winning. However my eldest now plays in the under 11’s and it’s still played as a ‘friendly’. No end of season play-offs, no premiers, everyone gets a medal. Seriously, buy this age, if they can’t learn to lose then they shouldn’t be playing team sports.

  • Michelle deJong

    Well said!! The middle pic is of your son tackling my son Max and at no time did Mater Dei primary feel that your boys were unfair in anyway. They played a awesome game and deserved to be so excited for themselves. You all should be very proud of your boys they played hard and fair.Good luck to them all for tonight

    • katrina

      It’s so silly that we even have to have this conversation isn’t it Michelle?! I mean, Cruise is there tackling Max but then lines up next to him on the same team on Sundays! We’d know if the kids were behaving badly! X

  • fiona

    Hi Katrina. I’m so hearing you. The kids in our school on athletics day always get ribbons and proudly wear those coveted 1,2,3, place ones. The principal came up with the new rule that they can’t do that anymore because 1 parent complained that she thought it was rubbing in the faces of those who did not get a place. It’s total madness. Schools promote that every child is a winner but when a child stands out for something they are good at or something they were rewarded for apparently were no longer allowed to celebrate that at the risk of being a bad sport. What the? Simple things made complicated by frustrated under achievers I’d say!!!!

  • Joanne Gibbons

    Well said that’s what sports is about team spirit

  • Jacqui Honeyman

    Well said Trin, sadly for those bunch of fantastic boys ever since Trent Barratt Shield they have been threatened and their achievements down played by hierarchy. They were threatened in yr 4 about their gregarious behaviours then. THEY ARE JUST PASSIONATE BOYS!! They have never been dirty players, they are fair, they do listen to their peers and most importantly their are respectful of others. Each and everyone of them would be the first one to help up an opposite team member if they had fallen. I’m sorry but this makes me so cross, I could imagine the nature of how this unfolded. They are the best of friends and lets get excited, cheer each other on and have loads of fun. I think that the hierarchy have forgotten the important thing here is that they are children!! Let them be kids and congrats on the great win. Stick your chests out at school, listen to them but don’t loose your spirits xx

  • Parisgirl

    Kids today are taught not to be competitive and ‘everyone’s a winner’ but the harsh reality is when they get out in the big bad world the opposite applies. As a teacher (am no longer) I saw so many cases of young people not being able to cope once they left school and the mollycoddling ceased to exist. Did you know there is a college in Brisbane that does not allow any physical activity at lunch time. No games, no chasing and definitely no sport. Instead the students are expect to hold polite conversations with their friends. Think of all that pent up energy! Someone seriously needs to get a grip, how sad for the kids.

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