For & Against: Should there be winners & losers in kids' sport?

Can you imagine sport without winners and losers? That’s exactly what’s about to happen to junior AFL. Admirable or unAustralian?

Today it was announced that the AFL is introducing nation-wide changes to their junior code and that, under the new rules, in most under-10 games there will be no:

* Playing to win
* Scoreboards
* Match results
* Best and fairest awards

In effect, they are removing competition from kids’ sport.

Is that a great idea, or mollycoddling gone mad? Two iVillage mums go head to head:

Jo Abi: 'Competition is good for kids'

AGAINST - Competition is healthy.

The changes to the AFL under-10 games are just ridiculous. Thank goodness we're a soccer family!

The outdoor soccer season starts this weekend and IT IS ON! Philip has played for the past four years since Kindy and Giovanni is playing for the first time.

It's going to be great. Both my boys, with that Italian blood flowing through their veins, are going to be star performers. I just know it. And there I'll be, on the sidelines, vocal in my support, praying for a win.

Competition is good for kids. Competition is what drives them to improve, to succeed. The suggestion that children's sports no longer keep score is ridiculous. Talk about killing all the fun.

When Philip first started playing outdoor soccer he was a terrible player and his team never won a game. It was a difficult first two years of competition for him, but formative. Today he is focused, driven, wanting to learn and improve and succeed. The experience of loss devastated him and embarrassed him but I kept on telling to have fun, enjoy the game, learn from it, experience it. I used to yell from the sidelines, "Shake it off, keep going, don't give up, have another go".

In the car on the way home I'd tell him not to worry, that one day, he'd score his first goal, save his first goal, win his first game and it would be amazing. Then, he'd understand why we hang in there, even if we aren't winning.

Can you get a better life lesson than that?

Teaching our children to love sport is half the battle, the rest is teaching them to love it even if it doesn't go their way. Trust me, the resilience they learn will help them for the rest of their lives. They'll learn what if feels like to win, to lose and to aspire to be better, to be great.

And let me tell you, that first day that Philip scored a goal is goes down as one of the best days of our lives. For him it was pure joy and elation. For me it was pure joy and pride.


Not keeping score during children's sports may cause a bit of short-term suffering, but it's essential to their development as well-rounded people.

Now go, go, go!

FOR - Keep the killer instinct for later in life.

Holly Wainwright: 'Competitive sport is for grown-ups'

My kids are too little to be involved in organised sport yet, and you know what, I'm hoping that by the time they do, all junior sports have taken the lead of the AFL and removed the competition.

It's not that I don't like sport. I do. But seriously competitive sport, like politics, fashion and gangsta rap, is for grown-ups. It's for people who have worked out who they are and that the often arbitrary team result is not a life and death matter.

When you're little - and under 10 sounds like a good line to draw to me - sport should be about health, fun, and running about with your mates. It shouldn't be about 'beating' someone else.

Call me a softie, call me a bleeding heart, call me whatever you want, but I am not in a hurry for the day my children's spirits are at the mercy to overly-competitive meatheads who have swallowed the idea that it's okay to make yourself feel fantastic at the expense of someone else.

I'm not in a hurry for the day when my daughter realises that no matter how hard she tries, there will always be someone who can run faster, kick better, jump higher, and that somehow that person is to be held aloft and celebrated above those who aren't as blessed.

Of course I'm going to teach my kids that you need to commit to things to get good at them. And that practice, practice, practice makes perfect. I also want them to learn the importance of teamwork, of working with others, of coming together for a common goal, all values that sport promotes. But I don't want them to learn, too early, that winning and losing is what makes those things worth doing.

What I want my kids to learn is that there's satisfaction in doing well and striving for the best, but not at the expense of others. Because when there are winners, there have to be losers. And that's totally fine when you're old enough to have worked out that learning to lose with grace is part of life, but not when you're too little to understand that the result on the scoreboard is not a reflection of your self worth.

What do you think - should kids sport be competitive?