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Sports day: The Pros and Cons

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What are the benefits and pitfalls to a school when organizing a Sports Day?

As we approach the end of the academic year, physical education teachers up and down the country are busy planning and organizing their flagship moment in the calendar: the school sports day. Sports day, just like physical education, comes under scrutiny surrounding its purpose and value for the students and staff involved in such a day. It’s a time when the entire school is off timetable, and in an increasing climate where curriculum time is precious, I wonder how valued sports day is in your school. I have spoken to many physical education teachers on this matter to find out their honest opinions. Here are some of the positives and negatives of sports day.

Competitive Setting (Positive)

Sports day is parallel to the real world in term of its competitiveness. Being involved in the day gives students the chance to understand and develop their ability to perform in a highly competitive setting, a skill that is highly required post education and in most certainly in the workplace. 

Physical Activity Turn Off (Negative)

We aim to ensure sports day promotes a healthy active lifestyle to all students involved. However, what if it doesn’t? The expectation to perform to a high standard, the pressure to perform skills accurately and the burden to win an event for your team really can turn students away from the core aim of a sports day and any future relationship with health, wellbeing and exercise.

Celebration of Talent (Positive)

Sports day should be a celebration of the sporting talent that a school has to offer. The students who may struggle academically may also strive in a sporting environment. We owe it to them, to ensure they have the opportunity to show off their talents, just as academic students do in the classroom.   

Physically Active All Day (Negative)

Are students really gaining the most out of the experience in relation to physical activity, or do both students and staff see the day as a ‘day off’ lessons or a means to an end in regards to the academic year? The vast majority of the day, students are in a sedentary position eating unhealthy snacks and drinks, while tremendously bored. Ironic? Maybe.

Community Spirit (Positive)

Bringing the whole school body together for the day is a crucial aspect of a successful sports day. What an incredible opportunity for students, teachers and support staff come together to support their form, year or learning house. Who knows maybe that community spirit can expand into the wider aspects of school life?

Self-Esteem (Negative)

Standing in front of a crowd and performing within a competitive event gets to most people, even professional sportsmen/sportswomen. So, imagine being a student who lacks both confidence and ability, surely this is enough to scar them for a very long time? The last thing they need during their education is this pressure or stigma lowering their self-esteem even more so…

Designing the perfect Sports Day

As a school and physical education department, questions need to be answered when faced with planning and designing your sports day. Taking into account the demographics of your area are students best fitted to a sports day that is optional and/or compulsory, traditional as well as modern and inclusive whilst also being competitive isn’t easy.

There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but we can come to the conclusion that sports day won’t appeal to all students. Is this a justified reason to get rid of the day? And we haven’t even mentioned the parents who come along to spectate, have we?! 

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