It’s now the end of term and most schools will have put on the annual
torture ritual of sports day at some point over the last week or two. Sports day is a very divisive activity and splits both parents and children into 2 clear camps; those who love/those who hate. My own feelings of sports day are coloured by my Vietnam-style flashbacks of being useless at every sport, being the last to be picked for anything and being ever stuck in the position of goal keeper in netball due to my single redeeming feature of being tall (something I cannot take any credit for). You may guess then that I fall into the latter category.
Coming from a gene pool distinctly lacking in athletic prowess I had hoped, against the odds, that my children would strive to achieve some kind of familial balance and be amazingly sporty. Sadly, it would appear that the apple does not fall far from the tree and they are just as pants as their parents (luckily they are quite tall).
Sports day, therefore, never fills any of us with any kind of enthusiasm. While some approach it with an Olympian-style “let’s go smash this thing” positive mental attitude, our vision of success is more based on not coming last or falling over. Even those lofty heights can seem like just a pipe dream but sometimes you’ve just got to reach for the stars.
I fear I have transferred my own personal hang ups to my children; on the way into school on the day of sports day, my daughter’s friend said “aren’t you excited about sports day?” to which she replied “running with a bean bag in front of loads of people making an idiot of yourself? Err, no”.
Mums fall into 2 categories on sports day: those who deliberately come in flips flops to avoid any question of competing in the mums’ race; and those who just happen to have their running spikes and an isotonic sports drink in their bags (“what these old things? Gosh, I haven’t worn these since I represented Yorkshire in 1983…”). Likewise, dads are truly nonchalant about racing but once that whistle blows it becomes a matter of honour, despite the fact that you have overweight 45 year olds competing with gym bunny 20-somethings and lots of nervous school first aiders on the side lines, terrified they’re going to have to administer CPR to a fat dad in front of the whole school, or at least rub their backs while they’re sick behind the goal posts.
Teachers themselves either embrace it or shun it, some refusing to make any concession to their power dressing, sinking into the field in 3 inch heels like it was quick sand and others cladding themselves in head to foot Adidas and sweat bands when the greatest physical endeavour they attempt is handing out the eggs and spoons.
The kids, to be fair, take it all in their stride. Some take it more seriously than others; some throwing themselves over the finish line in a bid to win, others barely capable of stopping their spoons slipping from their grip having had their mum smear them in sun screen seconds before setting foot at the start line. And one must always remember the wise old sports day proverb that while you can place a child on a space hopper, you cannot make it hop.
All over for another year now and soon to be a distant memory. Apart from all the photos taken by parents, who were expressly told not to share them in any kind of public forum, that were added to Facebook before the last of the hula hoops was cleared away.