Sports Day Lead-Up

As term four looms ahead many thoughts turn to Sports Day (the equivalent of Fields Day in the USA). While many schools have theirs in term 1 while summer is still in full swing many other schools choose term 4.

I remember practising endlessly with PE teachers in preparation for Sports Day. The enthusiasm of students when they saw the groundsman had marked out the running and hurdle tracks was overwhelming. All students would be out there at recess and lunch practising with friends. Does this still happen?

From my own observations I feel that there has been a decline in the enthusiasm, not to mention participation, in sporting events over the past 15 years. I was never super-sporty (and certainly don't count sport as a hobby even now) but I could appreciate the event that only occurred once a year. So why have things changed? Are the students of today very different?

The answer to the latter question is no. Students are not so different from their parents and grandparents. I feel that the lack of support stems from a change in the way sport is viewed by the school and its teachers.

Many teachers don't 'like' sport and thus except for the PE lessons (usually taught by a non-contact (N.I.T.) teacher) students don't get exposed to actual sport. Many teachers appear to think fitness can include Duck, Duck, Goose, and Cat and Mouse, etc. Oh  yes, these are fun games which children love - but how many are actually moving at once? One, two - it's usually no more than 3 students. Out of a class of 25 students it is unacceptable to think of an activity where only 3 students move at any given time is 'fitness'. Fitness and sport involve movement, problem solving, and team work.

Another issue that prevents proper sporting ability are junior primary events. While I agree they should be about teamwork some of the activities that schools currently have on their agenda for students up to grade 2 and 3 include water relays and tunnel ball. By grade 2 most students consider these activities as 'babyish' and want to do the other events (mine even took the issue to the SRC meeting). This is a point that leadership in schools really need to step back and consider.
I was able to purchase about 20
basic digital stopwatches, similar to
the one above, from my
local cheap store for about $3 each.
A good investment to have a
set when and where I needed.

What did I do?

Last year, I wanted to improve the sporting ability of my students. There were some hidden gems in that class who just never got exposed to what sports were. Admittedly though, my main motivation was the deplorable spectacle I had witnessed at the same school the year before. Students (including grade 6 and 7) who WALK around the oval during a marathon and who have been picked as being the BEST set a poor example to younger students. On the other hand, you can't expect students to go from zero fitness to running a marathon overnight.

I started training my students in term 1 as I knew they needed the chance to condition themselves to more physical activity.

Decor 12.5L tub with handle
This was perfect for storing
the 26 memo books,
13 lead pencils, and
* We started with the marathon and the students worked in pairs (different person each time).
* Each one was given a small memo book which had their name and colour of their sports team.
* One partner would record the date in the memo book and time the run of their partner with a stopwatch.
* Then they would swap, etc.

Each fitness lesson they were able to complete 2 full laps of the oval. The books were collected into a tub after each day and I would sort the books during my break into boy/girl and into their team colours. The quickest runner would be recorded on a specially made board with their time.

I later expanded to include other events such as long jump, hurdles and high-jump.

It worked wonders with the leaders changing many times over the course of the year. The best scores gave all students something to aim for. My students performed much better and all were proud of their results as they beat their own personal bests.

Sporting Chart
Boys in blue / Girls in red

What about 'no one is a loser; we're all winners'? Sorry, but in the real world there are winners and their are losers. Not everyone who applies for a job will get it. Not everyone nominated for an award will receive it. It's time we went back to teaching children this (it was 25 years ago!) and stop wrapping children in cotton wool. I would much rather my own children learn this lesson of winning or losing when they are young and have the chance to develop skills to cope with it than to grow up and enter the real world and learn it then!

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