Why Sports Day Matters

I remember my first sports days. Or at least, I think I do, but it might have something to do with them being the only sports days that I have photographic evidence of. There's a great sense of misplaced pride that comes with watching your four/five/six year old in their school sports day - none of the "competitors" are any better than one another, in fact, for the most part, they're almost equal in their awfulness, and Seb is no exception. Last week I beamed with pride as he swung a folded skipping rope above his head with one hand in the skipping race, and threw a foam javelin backwards over his head. 

I have fond memories of a race in which I had to balance a small beanbag on my head, and I always volunteered for the sack race (which I don't believe exists any more due to health and safety concerns).
As I got older I became increasingly academic and increasingly less sporty. I stop remembering sports days after about my fourth year of primary school. After that my only lasting memory of school sports involve rounders injuries. In my final year of primary school I bizarrely joined a competitive, mixed gender rugby team, but that was the same year that I cried for sheer fear of school swimming lessons. By the time I moved up in to secondary school I actively avoided all school sporting activity. I must have taken part in something, but I honestly do not remember a single P.E lesson at my first secondary school, not one. By my GCSE years I would at least, begrudgingly, take part in orienteering, predominantly because it meant I could have an uninterrupted cigarette in the woods. I did quite like hockey, so turned up for that if it wasn't too cold, and I would always put my name down enthusiastically for trampolining, then claim some error, as I suffered from a joint dysfunction in childhood that meant I couldn't use a trampoline, so would get to sit and watch. For the most part though, I didn't turn up to PE lessons, my attendance was horrific, my effort on the occasions that I did show my face, even worse.
I wasn't a fat, inactive child. Outside of school I loved cycling, I was always outdoors with friends, I went horse riding, I went to dance classes, I had kayaking lessons on the local river, I went to gymnastics, there was just something about institutionalised sport, and team games in particular, that I couldn't stand. I also didn't think I was very good at anything. That's where this stems from, predominantly. I could play netball, but I wasn't netball team good enough, I could run, but not at the speed of the athletics team, and my cricket skills left a lot to be desired. When you put a lot of teenagers together in a competitive environment, not being very good at something, is deeply embarrassing. Especially when you're a 15 year old girl being expected to play football with her boyfriend. Just no.
My parents shared my lack of enthusiasm for sport. I didn't grow up in a family that supported a team, in anything. I don't even remember being aware of the World Cup as a child. My parents didn't watch, or participate, in any sport, nor were they desperate for me to show an interest. I was encouraged to be active, which is arguably far, far more important, but not particularly competitive. More focus was dedicated to encouraging my academic interests, I loved writing, I played the piano, I was in "top set everything except maths" at school, that, it was accepted, was where my abilities lay, and as such, I was never in trouble at home for not bothering with PE. My English grades were outstanding after all, couldn't I just do extra French when everyone else was practicing shot-put? Apparently not.
It's too early to say whether Seb is going to show any signs of being sporty. He still isn't surrounded by any team supporting, so it's not like he has been born in to that competitive sports mentality that you might find in a football-mad household. He is good at football though, I guess, for a five year old. We take him to a weekly football session on a Saturday morning which he loves, and he appears to have some pretty good skills. He's also very fast, when he wants to be (and painfully slow the rest of the time!). Whilst sports day is still silly and fun, there's little you can do to view it as a genuine sporting event, but I do wonder what the future holds for Seb. My fear is that he will grow to be scared of taking part, as I was, because he doesn't think sport is his thing.
I want to encourage him to enjoy sport at school, despite completely understanding why he wouldn't, so that he at least gets involved. Bunking off from two PE lessons a week is actually quite stressful and time consuming, even if you know that a "phone call home" won't end in much drama. Bizarrely, I want him to be sporty, because I'm not. Rather than not being bothered about him being sporty, because I'm not. That's not to say that I'm going to force anything on him, he particularly enjoys yoga, which isn't especially promising for future athletics championships. But I hope that he'll at least find a thing in sport, be it the school football team, the local rugby club, or even just a genuine willingness to volunteer for the 400 meters.
I was fine, in some strange turn of events, because there was a written paper component, I achieved a B in GCSE PE. I never ever ever touched a netball again, or a hockey stick, or any sort of tabard. I like walking. I like yoga. I do however know that Seb has another eleven sports days ahead of him in this life time, and I don't want him to start dreading them within the next few years, as I did. I want him to be grateful for the excuse that PE presents to get out of a classroom for an hour, I want him to celebrate sports day as a relief from normal lessons, you know, like normal kids do!
I'm just not too sure how much of an example I set in myself!

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