sports days troubles - Bubbablue and me

School sports day brings out the best and worst of children

I love sports day. I didn’t always love it when I was really young. Where we first lived, at nursery and then my first primary school, I was terrible at sports day. All the other children would have finished the race by the time I’ve even picked up my egg for the egg and spoon race. Once we moved area and I changed to a different school, it was like I was a different child. All of a sudden sports day was my thing and I loved it.

But it’s not always easy for children, whether they enjoy sports, are good at sports or whether they dread it.

sports days troubles - Bubbablue and me

N quite enjoys sports day even though he knows that he’s never going to win. Well I say he’s never going to win, but he did come pretty close in the egg and spoon race this year. His year group have so many boys, that they run across two different races and unfortunately he’s in with three or four of the fastest children in the year. It means he knows upfront that he’s unlikely to get on the podium. But he tries, and he enjoys it, and I’m pleased that he does.

For the children who don’t enjoy sports day, or really struggle with taking part, the school children and teachers are always really supportive of those struggling at the back of the field. They’ll be encouraged and cheered over the line. And that’s what sports day is about it’s not just about winning although that is important but it’s also about giving everyone the chance to give it a go and try and get everyone to enjoy it.

Some children struggle with not winning even when they still get on the podium. I know I’m a pretty bad loser myself, but I cover it up well. Children find it harder to hide their emotions and end up crying at coming second or third. It’s a hard lesson to learn and it’s one I’ve made N learn as soon as he’s been old enough to play games. The OH thinks I’m brutal in not letting N win. But he will get much more value from playing fairly and knowing that he’s won against me by doing his best, and properly winning then by me letting him win. Learning those hard lessons helps when it comes to sports day.

Although iit helps that N isn’t that competitive. He likes to win but he’s a realist about the chance he has to win. When he knows there’s that chance, then he’ll try harder.

Thankfully our sports day is a friendly and happy occasion with not too many tears. Thinking back to my primary school days we didn’t see too many traumas either. But maybe that was because I was in the sporty crowd and those who weren’t, didn’t get a chance to race in the proper sports events but had to take part in fun events instead. I think I’d have been mortified if I’d been in junior school and still having to do dressing up races, when other people were getting to do serious running races. Maybe as a child it’s much harder to see other children who don’t enjoy things as much as you do.

I hope that N will always be able to see and be aware of other people’s discomfort at sports day. Hopefully as he moves into Key Stage 2, he will continue to enjoy the races and will keep trying his best. Because that’s what we want our children to do in school and outside.

But what can you do to prepare your children for sports day if they really don’t enjoy it?

Tips on preparing children for school sports day

1, Play fairly in games from an early age so they understand that there are rules and that there has to be a winner and a loser. Some sports days don’t celebrate winners, which is a shame. How are children going to strive to be the best through their life. Also, if sport is just about being inclusive and not about winning, we’ll end up with a country incapable of putting forward sports teams to compete on a world stage. Some competition is good.

2, Teach them that sports day is about trying their best. If they try they may found something that they enjoy and are good at.

3, If they are sporty and win a lot, encourage them to be good winners and not to gloat in front of others who are less sporty, or who have just been pipped at the post. Next year it might be them who aren’t winning.

4, Focus on the team aspect. Many schools now have house teams and the team score is as important or more important than the individual wins. So working for the team encourages children to think more about others and supporting others to do well and finish the race, rather than putting them down as people who let the team down.

5, If your child cries let them have a bit of a short cry, ask them their reasons, and then talk through winning and losing situations. They have to remember that even professional sports people don’t always win but we don’t see them crying at the end of a match (well maybe we do at the end of the World Cup or Wimbledon if they have or haven’t won). If it was N I’d probably be harsher and put a stop to it after the first time, but it’s still important to understand why they’re doing it.  The emotion and passion can be a good thing if it’s channelled into positive, and help them work harder to reach their goal.

6, If children are nervous hopefully the school are aware and have done plenty of practice beforehand. But if not find out from the school what happens:

  • where the parents  sit
  • can the children speak to parents
  • what happens when the race finishes
  • do the children know where they going
  • do they have a buddy system where someone from an older class will help them out.

7, You can always practice beforehand so they’ve got more confidence about what races are going to be done and hopefully they’ll be less anxious about doing something wrong on the day.

8, Don’t put lots of pressure on the the child. Sometimes we can do it without realising it by saying how proud we’d be if they achieved xy&z or offering incentives. Children just need to know that we’re looking forward to seeing them enjoying themselves and seeing them try as hard as possible.

9, Share your embarrassing school sports day stories. Children love to hear about the terrible things that we did when we were children, and I’m sure we’ve all got a story about a sports day disaster or embarrassment. It shows them that there might be one embarrassing moment but it won’t ruin them for the rest of their life. They’ll be able to get over it and laugh about it later on.

Hopefully if children start out disliking sports day, after the first year their nervousness will improve and they’ll start to enjoy it more as they move through the school.

Of course once they hit secondary school, sports day then turns to be an embarrassment once again especially if parents are all turning up to watch. I was sporty at school but the fact that we weren’t allowed to wear PE skirts and had to just wear a gym knickers was embarrassing.  I always opted to do the javelin which I wasn’t that great at, but because it was held in the morning there were no parents watching and no one else from the school watched other that the competitiors The relay was fine because I was there with friends and we knew that we were going to win it.

It’s really important to most parents that their children enjoy sports day, because we don’t want to see them be uncomfortable.  We all hope there will be enjoyment even if children aren’t always going to be the winners.

How old are your children get on with sports day? If they don’t enjoy it how do you cope with getting them through it?

Why not take a look at these similar posts.

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  1. Teaching children to be good sports, enjoy taking part and try their best is really important. My other tip, having been with parents of children learning to swim competitively, is don’t be that parent. The one who encourages their children by slagging off the other ones … Although to be fair, the child turned round half way through the parent’s diatribe and asked them to stop.

  2. Interesting – I’ve never thought about kids finding sports day tough before – we are only on year one though and plenty of time ahead!
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

    1. Our school year do ok, but other people I know elsewhere have issues that they’re so much smaller than the rest of the kids and even though they’re sporty, will never catch the others. Or children who get nervous being in front of all the parents watching. Luckily our school is small so thre’s less pressure.

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