IT’S sports day time at a primary school near you. “Sports day” is something of a misnomer. There are very few actual sports involved in a primary school sports day.
I am assuming this is the case, anyway. The Rio Olympics was on at the wrong time of day for me to be watching, so I could be wrong, but I am fairly sure that there wasn’t a Running With A Small Bean Bag On Head event.
The BBC didn’t have a retired plastic ball and spoon bronze medallist sitting between Denise Lewis and Matthew Pinsent in the studio.
And Team GB definitely has not been ploughing millions into building a Hempdrome in Greater Manchester to develop a world-beating sack and three-legged race operation.
As far as I can tell, the closest sports day comes to actual sports is the sporting wardrobe displayed by the (non-competing) teachers, people who don’t have time to exercise because they spend all their time outside school marking, writing lesson plans, and working out what massive changes to the National Curriculum the Government has come up with that week.
It is just difficult to see who benefits from sports day. Children who are bad at sports do not welcome the opportunity to display their shortcomings to an audience of bored parents, who have only come to see their own children and display their own ability to balance on a tiny chair on a bobbly playing field.
And children who are good at sports do not need any more self-affirmation. Their heads are big enough.
And the skills you have to learn to be any good at sports day do not carry over into daily life, unless you have both a massive kitchen and the lack of foresight to bring the egg cup closer to the hob.
I have the solution. If we are not going to make our children engage in actual sports on sports day, then we must at least ensure the races prepare them for later life, or we’re just wasting everybody’s time. I present The Alternative Sports Day…
The Phone Race
Children must make their way to the finish line, avoiding obstacles (bean bags, plastic cones, open manholes) while reading their Facebook/Instagram feed on a mobile telephone. To make it extra difficult, half the children will be walking in the opposite direction.
The Basket Race
Children must carry a supermarket basket of groceries around a maze, and then stand in a baskets only queue for 10 minutes without dropping anything. The number of groceries in the basket must be too many for a basket but not enough to justify getting a trolley, even though the trolley queues are zipping through, and the child two positions in front has a DVD with a tag in it that the check-out operator doesn’t know how to remove and has had to call for Susan.
The Fitted Sheet Race
Children must put a fitted sheet on a bed. The fitted sheet is a special sports issue sheet which is designed for a mattress precisely one and a half inches (3.81cm) narrower than the one provided. The semi-final would introduce The Mattress Topper, and the final would include The Cat That Wants To Lie On The Bed. Also, the children have to be very tired and, ideally, weepy, so this event should be at the end of the six-hour sports day.
The Photo Race
A greyhound races-style hare is released down the track. The children have to take a picture of the hare using only a locked mobile phone that has previously been set to selfie mode and video mode. The first child to negotiate the various locks (fingerprint, PIN code, pattern), switch the phone to rear-facing photo mode, AND take a picture wins.
If one of them actually gets a picture of the hare in time, he or she shall be named Prime Minister.
The Four-Legged Two-To-Four-Wheeled Race
Each child is provided with another smaller child, and that smaller child’s scooter/tricycle/dolly’s pram. The competitors then have to make their way along the same track used in the phone race, while the smaller child demands randomly and repeatedly a) to be carried; b) to ride/push their wheeled plaything; c) for the plaything to be carried; d) a cuddle; or e) to be allowed to run out into the road.
This one is not to prepare them for the future. It is just to see how they bloody like it.