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Parenting Ramblings — 28 June 2012

Tuesday was school Sports Day with the usual egg and spoon, sack race, throwing bean bags and jumping through hoops. Not much different to when I was a child. However, that’s where the similarities ended because this Sports Day was different in the fact that there were no winners… or losers.
Heave ho! Tug of war at Sports Day

Back in the day Sports Day was competitive. By that I don’t mean I was in training for months before, on a high protein diet and getting down and doing 50 press-ups before the bell went. Simply put, there was a winner, others who came second and third and shock, horror somebody who came last. Not only that but parents cheered and openly displayed the wish that their child would win. As far as I can tell this show of competitiveness has not caused me any longterm damage or prevented me from developing into a reasonably pleasant person.

So it makes me wonder if schools and teachers think that being competitive is a bad thing? And if so are they wrapping the kids up in cotton wool only to set them up for a not too pleasant surprise when they get older and realise that actually life is competitive?

When we talked about Sports Day at home Ferne was adamant that I was not to enter the Mum’s race. Why? Because she said she would be too upset if I lost. If she can’t cope with her Mum losing at Sports Day I don’t hold out much hope for her surviving in big bad world!

I know it’s early days and they are still very young but really, is being competitive that bad? What do you think?
Chatting to other parents all of us were slightly annoyed that they weren’t being given the opportunity to try to win. All the kids were asking us what the score was and we had to make something up about them having won loads of points for being ‘good’. BLAAAAHHHHHH.

Funnily enough, whilst talking about Sports Day one Dad told me how, when his eldest son was at school, he came to Sports Day secretly wearing a pair of spikes for the Dad’s race. Another Mum told me that she trained for a whole year to run the 400m race. Now that’s what I call competitive! Are these people freaks? Well maybe they’re a bit overly-competitive but they are also very honest.

Primary school children, sports day
Picture thanks to Dullhunk @

Aside from the lack of competition Sports Day really was great fun and although kids couldn’t compete that didn’t stop the adults. In fact the competition between the adults resulted in a potential money-making opportunity for the PTA. First one of the Mums fell flat on her face during the Mum’s race (thank goodness that wasn’t me or Ferne would have had to be stretchered off) and secondly the rope for Tug-of-War broke during the Mum v Dad competition sending us all falling over! The result could be £500 on You’ve Been Framed! Yet more positives for being competitive!


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(5) Readers Comments

  1. Totally agree with you on this one. In real life not everyone comes first! Also everyone has their own strengths. Isn’t it undervaluing the talents of the kids who really are good at sports to not let them feel the rush of being a ‘winner’? I speak from the position of someone who was not particularly good at sports, it never upset me, it just wasn’t my thing! Some people have talked about doing the mum’s run going over the line holding hands. Please! Me and some friends are plotting turn it on its head, train, turn up in running gear and make it ultra competitive. Let the kids see a real race! We are mostly kidding though – I think…

  2. It is crazy. Yes, it is sad when you don’t win something and even sadder if you come last. But that is part of life and surely primary school is a very good place for learning how to deal with that. It is a tough world out there and all our kids need to learn a bit of resilience and also how to take something not so positive and work to improve it. I was poor to average at most sport, but I won the high jump cup at primary school, a happy memory I treasure to this day!!!

    • Like you both say – it’s a fact of life. You don’t always win at things and it doesn’t matter in the short term and if you really want to win at something you need to work at it. Kind of crazy and confusing to have a sports day like this – in particular it being Olympic Year and they’re being told about people who are the ‘fastest in the world’ and win records etc. Thanks for commenting ladies and well done Luci on your high jump success and Hazel, good luck in your race! Do us Mums proud. x

  3. As a mother of an 11 year old girl, I have spent hours each year supporting the “non-competitive” sports day. Her school combines all the years together in various teams, ensuring some children from each class are in each team (are you with me so far?). The field is then sectioned off into various event areas – hurdles, relay, netball, hockey, etc. and a set amount of time is spent scoring on each of these themes. The time spent on each section is interminable. My daughter ran at least 12 laps of the relay alone. The whole event took two hours and continued despite pouring rain. At the end, the children were exhausted and many of the parents, if they were honest, were bored. The winners were announced in teams and I suppose at least her school has team winners. However, no one child was allowed to “shine”. Teamwork is an invaluable lesson, I wouldn’t disagree. But so is learning to be competitive, giving it your all and learning to lose with grace! The real contradiction seems to be that when the school is trying to get good SATs results, the gloves are off – homework, extra lesson, whatever it takes to make them top of the league tables. But to show some of this fighting spirit on the playing field at sports day – Heaven forbid!

    • Oh Sophie that does sound a drag for all concerned! Of course you’re right, it’s very important to learn teamwork but it is still important to teach kids to show some bloomin’ get up and go – or they’ll all be a bunch of doormats! Thanks for replying – does this mean you’re moving up to Secondary next year? You might get some competition there! If not, oh dear, you’re in for the long haul. x

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