I am not a great lover of sport or exercise. I know I should, I know it is good for my health, I know it will help with my bones which are my weak spot, but I find it tedious and boring. At school, I was always the last one picked by the sporty little team captains. Me and the big, fat girl. I can’t throw and I can’t catch. I can’t hit a ball with a bat. So for me, Sports Day was my idea of Hell. I was the one who ran up to the high jump pole and knocked it off deliberately. I was the one who learned to play the violin for six years because it meant missing a lesson of PE each week. (Funnily enough, I managed to ‘mime’ playing the violin in the school orchestra as I was rubbish at playing that too.)
This week a school banned parents from attending Sports Day as having an audience is too stressful for the children. In the past, others have suggested that competitive sports are bad for children. Even though my experience of sports in school is quite a negative one, I find myself disagreeing with both of these stances. In my experience, children love their parents to come to school to see them perform. They want to do their best to please their parents or carers. School should be encouraging parents to come into school as much as possible as those relationships can bear fruit and enhance the work done in school and the co-operation of parents with work taken home. For example, parents can make excellent role models in Careers work, bringing years of experience in a variety of fields into the classroom.
As for ‘competition’, whether we level children or not, they will do it themselves. They compare work and teachers’ comments. They compare marks in spelling tests. They compete with each other in maths. My five year old grandson knows clearly what it means to be working on ‘green table’. His face beams when he tells me of his successes but he also knows that there will be times when he doesn’t do as well as others in his class.
It is life. There are winners and losers. When they eventually enter the ‘real world’ they need to be prepared. I learned long ago that sport wasn’t my thing but that I had other talents. I am not scarred by my school sport experiences. Just older and wiser.