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The return of competitive sports’ days? – Headmaster’s Blog – 21st June 2017

June 21, 2017

The return of competitive sports’ days?

I expect many of us will remember our own sports’ days from when we were at school? At my small Scottish prep school we began the afternoon with a whole series of choreographed physical training routines (PT) set to music. I can’t ever hear, ‘An English country garden’ (even though I was at school in Scotland), without finding myself back in my white t-shirt and shorts! After this musical ‘intro’ we then went through a series of ‘heats’ leading up to the finals at the end of the day. Exhausting stuff and deadly serious – and that’s just for the parents! (My parents lived overseas and so hardly ever attended sports’ days and so I didn’t usually have the very enthusiastic parent on the edge of the track egging me on!)

Lower Prep (Y3-5) athletics win

In the news

In a recent Sunday Times there was an article about the return of competitive sports’ days (assuming they ever disappeared in the first place) and some of the issues they can throw up for schools:

Competitive sports days – including running, egg and spoon and sack races – are making a comeback in an attempt to build children’s resilience. Victoria Keen, head of Taxal and Fernilee CofE Primary School in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, said: “When I first joined the school, parents were being asked not to cheer at the non-competitive sports day. It took three years to gradually change things to bring in the kind of competitive sports day I wanted to see.” However she added that once it was reintroduced, “we had tons of crying, because children weren’t used to [losing].” Meanwhile, private schools are trying to rein in competitiveness. “It’s a school sports day – not the Olympics,” said Ben Evans, headmaster of Edge Grove, a preparatory school in Hertfordshire.

Ballard’s answer to Sports’ Days

At Ballard we have moved away from a single afternoon of highly competitive sports. We found that this led to a limited number of pupils competing in several races / field events and thus leaving quite a number of pupils hanging around waiting for one race (perhaps the relays – at the end of the afternoon). We now have separate afternoons for Pre-Prep, Lower Prep, Upper Prep and Seniors (the four sections of our family school) and whilst there are still the ‘blue ribbon’ events (100m, 200m, and so on) we also have many which involve everyone competing for their House.

The tug-of-war is a great spectacle and we now even have one with a four-way ‘tug’! Several relays, including an ‘Olympic’ one, allows us to ensure that all pupils are involved, sometimes over a range of distances to allow for differing abilities, stamina and competitiveness. Where there is enough ‘popular demand’ we also have parent races but these are always handicap events involving planks of wood, obstacles, mixing up shoes or carrying objects. Great fun to take part in – and also to watch!

So, whilst I have a slight hanker after the ‘good old days’ of whole-school competitive sports’ days, I do see the value in the inclusiveness events of today which also allow for competition laced with a large dose of fun and fitness!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool but follow @BallardSport for a focus on Ballard’s Sporting calendar.

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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