The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Sports Day: The Re-run

Audio version of Sports Day: The re-run (mp3)

It’s that time of year again when competitive parents are putting their offspring through gruelling training regimes, while the rest of us are preparing to tell our kids that it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.

Which, of course, is complete bollocks.

If you want to compete, then compete to win; but if you don’t have an ice-cube’s chance in hell of coming anywhere further up the track than last, then you’ll be far better off not taking part. How many adults suffer from lifelong lack of self-esteem brought on by ruthless PE teachers and sports day? The majority I shouldn’t wonder.

As mentioned in last year’s blog entry on this subject, Sports Day, our children were never likely to break our family tradition of coming in so far behind everyone else that you actually get a round of applause for reaching the finishing line. While Meg’s friends were covered in little stickers announcing they had come first, second or third in multiple events, my daughter was proudly displaying her stickers which said “good effort”, “good sport” and “nice try”.

I never have had a problem getting a good clear shot of my kids when they are running: photos are so much easier when they’re not obscured by other racers.

“Don’t pick up the egg, you fool,” yelled one competitive father standing beside me during the egg and spoon race, “kick it further up the track first – it’s faster!” I swear I saw another slip his son a piece of chewing gum just minutes before.

For every winner there are a dozen other children who have to put up with the disapproval of overbearing parents, or the humiliation of being left at the back of the field

Maggie told me she saw her old PE teacher in Dumfries the other day. “Did you kick her?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “She may have been in her sixties but she still looked a lot fitter than me.”


34quinn said...

good morning kim.
I like this post as I have seen the exact situations you refer to over the years at many many martial arts tournaments around this country and others.
My son as I have mentioned before is a competative martial artist and has competed at the world level.
We have done all that we can to teach him that being competitive does not mean you HAVE to win ..

There is a difference between going in to a competition to try to win and having to win.

I love that my son can enjoy the self esteem he does from both the times that he wins a competition as well as in the times he doesn't but knows that he tried his best and gave him all. ( or sometimes he will even tell me he knows why he didn't score better and plans to work on it for the next time).

My son will be testing for his Black belt in karate in 2 weeks and it is a 2 day intense testing , this after 7 years of training 5, 6 and sometimes 7 days a week.
Part of his test was also to write an essay on what martial arts has meant to him and I just want to quote a portion of this for you if I may ( he wrote this just last night).

"You may think that the greatest thing that happened to me in karate would be winning the Diamond Nationals tournament or getting the Bronze medal at the World championships, well, if you do , you are wrong. The greatest thing that ever happened to me in karate was when I met my best friend and still best friend ( name here) !! He helped me in many ways in the past 6 years. He has taught me alot fo what i know and he has always been there for me, he is even helping me train for my black belt grading. I may not be the best and I may never become the best but I will always try my best and isn't that what all sports are about not just karate but whatever you do".

My son has just turned 13 and that was just a part of his essay and when I read that I had tears of pride that he feels this way. I wish more parents could help their kids to see life this way too.

fatmammycat said...

Kim, your 'losing a hundred weight' is gone, vamoosed, MIA. Just thought you should know.

Kim Ayres said...

Quinn - a wise head on young shoulders. Sounds like you're doing a good job teaching him the right values.

Fatmammycat - I fixed it by republishing the template. No idea what caused it, but it's back now. Many thanks for letting me know!

happykat said...

I've seen some very viscious parents on the soccer field.
My kids and I love to win, but not at the expense of having fun.
Oh, and Maggie is a gem!

Dr Maroon said...

Talking Primary School, I loved sports day! We had disqualifications, tears, injuries. Someone always had a nosebleed of Hollywood proportions and someone would swallow a coin or something, it was great. There was no namby-pamby everyone a winner with us, but it never bothered anyone I don’t think. There were a few kids who won everything, blazer lapels covered in little shield shaped badges, and the rest who didn’t, but we all loved it. The kids who hoovered up all the badges, were far from being the most popular and perhaps it was their day, their chance to shine at something, looking back. We all wore whites and red or green flash, it never rained and there was ice creams.
At secondary, the atmosphere changed immediately, you got all the minor sports you saw on Grandstand. It was even better! For six years, every Wednesday all day, Saturday morning, Monday night. I loved it all.

Taking part/winning.

The point is to make the effort. There is nothing worse than being beaten when you know you had more in you.
But when you know you have performed to your very best, it’s a fantastic feeling and quite often the actual result takes a back seat in all the euphoria.
Obviously winning is the icing. Thick, sweet, ambrosia icing on the rich fruit cake of competition.
I never won a sporting thing at school except heats, but I still loved it.

Kim Ayres said...

Happykat - I love to win, but just not at sports. PE & Sports Day have gut-wrenching, humiliating memories for me.

And yes, Maggie is a gem :)

Dr Maroon - you and me seem to have had vastly different school experiences, which is probably reflected in our vastly different attitudes towards education too :)

Tree said...

Me and my boyfirend drove past a school field full of kids playing various games last Thursday on the way to our weekend getaway. He called it Play Day and I called Field Day at our respective schools in different parts of the country. Guess they have this day everywhere.

Getting a round of applause just for finishing? I think thats the only applause I ever got at a sporting event. One year my sister got a trophy of a horse's arse for being the worst on her ball team. In retrospect it was cruel, at the time I thought it was great and teased her relentlessly. Hey she was my older sister (did I mention how mean she was to me?).

People who encourage their children to cheat should be beaten ... publicly.

34quinn said...

There are too many parents that want their child to win at all costs..encouraging them to cheat drives me insane.

Again, karate mom here, but my son tried out for the Canadian National Karate Team 3 years in a row before he actually made the team.

It took alot of hard work and discipline and honesty and integrity. The 2nd year he tried out the world's were going to be in Switzerland and oh how he wanted to go.
The divisions were suppose to be for 12 and under in his weight division.
This meaning the child was also going to have to still be 12 years old when they were to go to the worlds 5 months after the nationals.

Well my son came in 4th place that year and only the top 3 finishers actually make the team.

Guess how angry and upset we were to find out later that both the 2nd. and 3rd. place finishers were cheating in their divisions as both had turned 13 prior to the competition in Switzerland.

They basically stole the spot from my son who earned a 4th in the correct division.

However, with my son we use these things as ways to learn and improve ourselves.
We talked about what it would mean really to know that , hey , so they go to the world's and win a medal...did they really earn it ????? what could it possibly really mean to them knowing they got it because they had to cheat.

The following year my son tried out again for the team in HIS division and he won a place on the team and competed in the World's and won a Bronze medal for Canada. FAIR and square.

Nikki said...

I think it's sad that parents do that to their kids.

I tried out for two sports. Middle school I tried out for basketball and was placed on "auxillary" because I was disrespectful to a teacher (that's shocking news isn't it)

Once again in High School I tried out for track and out ran all but 2 girls on the team. The coach wouldn't let me join because I smoked. Made me so mad! Served him right that he lost all but 2 meets.

Kim Ayres said...

Tree - A horses arse trophy sounds a bit over the top. Fortunately I never received one of them.

Quinn - winning by cheating is hollow and pointless. I'm glad it worked out for your son in the end :)

Nikki - Sometimes adults are just out to screw you up as much as they can when you're a kid.

I should know - I'm a Dad...

Stella said...

We have school sports days over here but they really are just fun. On the other hand we have soccer, football and hurling (and I am so thankful that none of my kids are interested) and I believe the competition among the parents is a sight to behold.

Attila The Mom said...

“No,” she replied. “She may have been in her sixties but she still looked a lot fitter than me.”

Bahaha! Priceless!

SafeTinspector said...

I was always a came-in-last type of fellow. My mother pressured me none at all, however, as she always made it clear that smarts and creativity are the traits she values.

I'm trying to do that for my daughter, as I see her struggle to pay attention at football class.

I agree about the abusive boosterism, though. Too many parents want to live out their dreams vicariously through their spawn.

Gyrobo said...

Whatever happened to chariot racing?

SafeTinspector said...

gyrobo:That's what I always wonder!

Kim Ayres said...

Stella - Hurling is something I know virtually nothing about, but in the odd clip I've seen it looks bloody dangerous.

Atilla - I tried to argue that if she'd kicked her hard enough then her ex PE teacher would be too crippled to chase effectively, but by then it was too late anyway

SafeTinspector - neither of my parents were sporty, so I never got any pressure from them. The problem lay with the fact that your standing with other kids was judged by your sporting prowess in the schools I went to. You could be a right bastard, but if you were good at sports, then you could get away with pretty much anything.

Gyrobo - now if they'd had that at school, I'd have had far more fun

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

I put my comment on school sports days on Maroons site.

SafeTinspector said...

Kim: Yeah, the peer pressure thing. Mine was a parochial primary school.
Didn't make it MUCH better, as the lion's share of the students were either police or firemen brats.
Most of my torment was of the "Joey is a wierdo" variety, and sport wasn't really required when you had an easy target like a hyperactive book-worm like me.

Kim Ayres said...

Dr J McC - now that's the kind of school sports story I can really identify with.

SafeTinspector - you have my sympathies.

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