The Sports Day Debate
It's end of the summer term, the time of year that lots of schools are holding their annual sports days. For many children this is an exciting day of fun competition and team spirit in the summer sun, but for others it can be daunting and humiliating. For as long as I can remember there has been a debate about whether it is beneficial to hold an event in which less able children are at a disadvantage and where so much emphasis is put on strength and physical ability.
Pros and Cons
There are many arguments for and against Sports Day's, and even more on the subject of non-competitive V competitive Sports Day. One of the statements that comes up a lot is “They only give recognition to the ‘sporty’ kids and some children don’t enjoy sports or aren’t good at them, so therefore shouldn't be made to do it”. However, there are lots of things throughout the school year that give recognition for academic achievements so it is important that if your strength is sport, then those achievements are celebrated too. If we teach children at a young age that if you are not good at something, just don’t do it, we are not teaching them resilience and perseverance. We should be encouraging children to go outside of their comfort zones and try things they wouldn’t usually.
Another argument I have heard a lot is “It is an opportunity for children to be victimised and bullied”. Most of the negative articles I have read about sports days, are by adults who were bullied during sports when they were children, and they often acknowledge that their own children do enjoy sports day. I am not saying that bullying is a thing of the past, because it is a very real problem. However, I do think we need to remember that we have come a long way over recent years in terms of attitudes towards bullying within our schools and sports clubs.
Non-Competitive Sports Day
Many schools now favour a non-competitive sports day where all the children take part in various activities/races, but there are no individual ‘winners’. A great argument for this is; it allows all of the children to have fun, learn and develop, without the fear of coming last. Which may lead to some children not wanting to take part at all. I think these can be fantastic, with children separated into teams and competing together. It means they still learn the valuable lessons and life skills around winning and losing, but in a supportive environment where nobody is singled out as the ‘one’ who lost.
Llangiwg Primary School Sports Day
We went along to Llangiwg Primary School Sports Day in Pontardawe to find out for ourselves what the children think and see what approach they have taken. Throughout the day we were able to see children as young as 3 and up to 11 taking part and enjoying the atmosphere on a sunny July day.
First up were the Nursery and Reception children, who all looked like they were having a great time. With fun activities such as an obstacle race and the classic egg and spoon race, they were all keen to take a turn and looked proud as punch when they crossed the finish line. Nobody seemed too concerned with the position they had finished and there was lots of support and encouragement from staff and the older children that were helping out.
In the afternoon the rest of the school gathered at the Pontardawe Recreation Ground for their sports day. The children were all wearing their team colours (Blue, Red, Green or Yellow) and took turns to participate in the events. The remaining infants were competing in their own fun races, much like the morning event. There were lots of giggles, smiles and very proud faces.
We asked some of the nursery and infants, what their favourite thing about sports day is. This is what they said...
Elijah aged 6 - “Welly throwing”
Hannah aged 6 - “Running”
Harri aged 7 - “Having fun with my friends”
Theo aged 6 - “Taking part and having fun”
Sophie aged 7 - “Skipping”
Kelsey aged 7 - “Taking part and having fun”
James aged 5 - “I like doing the hula hoop race”
Eli aged 4 - “Winning the race”
Oliver aged 6 - “Skipping”
Narman aged 7 - “Running race”
Isaac aged 6 - “Throwing wellies”
Louise aged 6 - “Having fun and trying your best”
Noah aged 7 - “Being with my friends, having fun and competing”
Among the juniors the atmosphere was happy and excitable. There was a real feeling of togetherness, with children cheering for their teammates and friends. As I chatted to various children and parents, I didn’t hear any references to who was winning, or what position anyone had come in a race. What I did hear was a lot of excitement about spending the afternoon in the field having fun with friends and joining in. I heard children explaining that they weren’t very good at certain races or field events, but it wasn’t an issue, and I saw children encouraging each other.
Luke, year 5, helped us out on the day as our junior reporter. He interviewed some of the children to find out their views on Sports Day.
What the pupils think about sports day....
“Sports day is a day to socialise with people, have fun and burn off lots of energy. My best sport is sprinting”, Stephen, Year 5.
“The best thing about sport is you get energized, more fit and its lots of fun. You learn about your body. Taking part is more important than winning”, Cody, Year 5
“Sport is physical exercise, enjoyment and winning. I would say people do less sport now than 10-15 years ago. My favourite sport is pool”. Iwan, Year 5
“I think sports day is really good because you get to be active. I play football and basketball, I am a sporty person”, Summer, Year 6
“Sports day is really good fun because you are out and active at school. The best thing is having fun with my friends. I don’t do any other sport apart from at school”, Pheobe, Year 6
“Sports day is a great opportunity for everyone to express how they feel about sports. It’s about taking part and try different sports and be rewarded for your skills”, Ella, Year 6
“Sports day is good and fun, the best thing is running. Outside of school I play football and sometimes I ride my bike”, Baily
“I like doing the running and hurdles. I look forward to sports day when I know its coming. The best bit is being with my friends and coming together and cheering everyone else on. I’m on team red, but I think blue will win because they had lots of fast runners. But it’s not about winning it’s about taking part”, Amelia, Year 3
Whilst down at the field I found out that the school has a sports council made up of 4 junior ambassadors; Matilda, Summer, Zack and Nathan. These are children who have been picked because they are passionate about sports. They also support the teachers and encourage the other children with anything sport related. When asked about it they said;
"You have to get involved in sports activities, it is quite a bit of responsibility. In PE you have to make sure everyone is doing what they should be and we helped out with the younger sports day. Sometimes we get to run PE and are in charge of the games we play on the yard at lunch".
"I am proud to be a sports ambassador. I hope I can be one again next year".
I think its safe to say that the children at Llangiwg Primary School thoroughly enjoyed their sports day. The team competition certainly works well here and the children were all keen to try their best and support their team in the hope of scoring the highest points. But by no means was this at the expense of having fun.
Whatever your opinion on sports day is, I think we can all agree that the most important thing is that kids get out into the fresh air, get active and have fun!