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Everyone has a view on Sports Day. Too competitive, same children every year, girls should be competing against the boys, too many events, not enough races… It’s a difficult one to get right and you’re never going to please all of the people all of the time.

Our views are of course rooted in our own experience. For me, Sports Day was all about competing on the track. Children on one side, parents on the other, chanting children’s names as competitors ran by – and ribbons for the winners. It always frustrated me that I couldn’t get close to Fergus Robertson. Every year he did that thing where he shaped his hands like blades, cutting through the air to leave everyone in his wake.

I was never the fastest, but also not the slowest, usually just outside the ribbon positions. But sixth was ok as this was not my specialist event. I liked to think of myself as rather accomplished at egg and spoon, an event requiring discipline, balance and coordination. I liked the sack race, but was never sure whether to jump or run, with my feet wedged in the corners.

These days, Sports Day has hopefully moved on a bit, with a good balance between maximising enjoyment and participation, whilst ensuring there is some good, healthy competition. At Highgate Primary, the format for the first part of the morning is a carousel of events, with opportunities for everyone to have a go and compete against their peers. The highlight for me is the 400 metres race, where each race has something different to offer. It’s great to see how children’s attitudes towards running have changed since we introduced cross country club and ‘Run–a-Mile’, with pretty much every child running the full distance without stopping for breath. There were some incredible races with genuine sprint finishes, all run in a great spirit. We had one moment reminiscent of ‘Chariots of Fire’, where an early faller got back on his feet to come through the field to take gold. The stuff of champions – all that was missing was the slow motion action sequence to the music of Vangelis.

Then, after everyone had competed in these events, it’s the sprint finals. This is the moment that some of our pupils live for. It’s the highlight of their year, their chance to shine, their chance to tear down the track and be able to say that they are the fastest boy or girl in their year. It matters.

The parents’ races were as fiercely competitive as ever, with some very talented sprinters on display. It’s always interesting to note the parents’ footwear. Turning up to Sports Day in running spikes is a definite statement of intent!

But no Sports Day is complete without the teachers’ race. Standing on the start line, children lining the track, it all comes back. There was no Fergus Robertson, but I knew I was never going to get close to our young sports stars: John, Alpha, Rob, Alberto and Hannah. 30 years older than this lot, my ambitions are more realistic these days, happy to get down to the other end without embarrassment or injury. Once again I was pleased with my 6th place. I’d taken part, tried my hardest and enjoyed myself, which after all, is what sport is all about.


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