Whilst I can see both sides of the competitive v non competitive argument I have always secretly missed the old fashioned running, relay, obstacle course type of sports day of my own youth and from my first few years teaching. I have to admit I have actually dreaded sports day in school each year, even going to the lengths of praying for rain, if I knew any rain dances I would have danced them. Trust me I loathed the 'team game' format that sports day had become.
One of the reasons for my dislike of these type of sports day are simple, they are not, from what I experienced or observed much fun. The children are assigned to 'mixed age group teams' with children from F2 through to year 6, this fact alone clearly limits the type of activities the children take part in. Some of the activities include throwing bean bags into buckets, skipping, rearranging their group on benches in order of age and welly throwing.
The children and any long suffering adults then rotate around the activities until each team has taken part. Of course there is a bit of a competitive edge as the teams are competing against each other, albeit not directly. This lack of direct competition took a lot of the fun out of it, this along with the limited 'activities'.
We actually, in my opinion, underestimate our children by indicating that the competitive nature of sports day is too stressful, whilst piling the pressure on to achieve high Sats scores and pass the 11 plus! Most children are by their very nature competitive, ask any child who has siblings, it is from day one in a family a competition. When at play children compete when deciding whose game they are going to play first, who is 'on' in tick, in the classroom they compete, even if it is only to claim the first pencil from the middle of the table or to be first in line going for lunch.
Has this change in format resulted in children being less competitive, better behaved or more thoughtful and considerate towards each other than they were before? Were the children asked what type of sports day they wanted?
Thankfully for the children and adults in our school common sense finally prevailed and it was this year back to a fully fledged competitive sports day! Each year group took part in a boys then a girls running race followed by a boys and then girls obstacle race with prizes awarded in each case to the winner.
After all of the childrens races it was over to the adults, starting with Mums/Grans, Aunties, then Dads, Grandads and Uncles followed by the staff race! To end it all we then had a tug of war with staff verses parents. It was a resounding success! The children, parents and staff all had a ball, there was a real sense of camaraderie, a community coming together and having fun.
I don't think I will be praying for rain next year!