Sports day. What does it mean to you? Me, I have mixed feelings. If we go home with a medal it is a great day out. Wonderful for the kids, all good, clean fun and weren’t we blessed with the weather?
If we go home without a medal it’s a cruel, heartless event, especially designed for show offs who deliberately grind my children’s self esteem under their heels.
This year we arrived in the usual state. Gripping the boys hands with white knuckles lest they bring shame on the family by wandering onto the track where sixth class were in the middle of a relay race. There is the usual tug of war over the buggy; both my husband and I know that the person in charge of it is exempt from the more onerous task of shepherding the others to the starting line for their races. I am dreading the disappointment ahead and wondering if I remembered the drinks and the rice cakes and the wipes and the money. The children immediately run all the way to the far end of the field thus using up as much energy as possible before their sprints begin. This year I have the sense not to shout after them having finally learnt that they are not listening and unless I am waving a cone with a flake in it they will not turn around. Usually at this point I stand alone, wondering why I have forgotten my social skills. Do I approach other parents and say hello, do I stand and wait for someone to approach me or do I just relax (impossible until the races are over) and gaze into the middle distance. My husband suffers no such self doubt and marches ahead in a no nonsense way, proffering his hand, introducing himself and chatting away. I walk behind him, scanning the crowd to see who is wearing a nice, summery dress, who has good upper arms, who looks as stressed as me.
Before long the heats begin. Every boy has two races, a novelty and a sprint. Novelty races involve sacks, skittles, hoops and crawling. Sprints involve speed and athletic prowess and often, disappointment. I was mentally bemoaning this when I heard a mother pacing the field and saying loudly to nodding acolytes “This is all totally track based! Where is the javelin? What about the long jump? Or the shot putt?” That tirade put a stop to my grumbling. It is a
sports day after all, not the Commonwealth Games. National School
Youngest races are first. Junior Infants has little boys who will go through hell and high water for a medal and little boys who are don’t quite realise that when the whistle blows they need to move. It is both heartbreaking and hilarious. Once the race is over I try to find my way around the barriers along the sideline to extract my son and wipe away his tears. Finding a gap in the barrier is a challenge every year but so far I have resisted the urge to throw myself over it. Everyone gets an ice pop and winners get medals. Some are consoled by the sugary treats, others are not. Novelty races are easier to watch. Anyone, even fast boys can fall over in a sack, and the knack of jumping into a hoop and lifting it over your head is an easy one to pick up. The child coming last does not do so by a long stretch, so many things can go wrong the participants are usually littered along the track.
Anyway, this year was a good year. We left with two medals between three boys (both bronze, if you insist on asking) so I’m all for sports day. One son kicked a 7up bottle the whole way home as if his new found sportiness was simply uncontainable, he just had to keep jumping and kicking and running. The fact that one of his brothers walked behind him weeping was of no visible concern. I was in good form too, two out of three isn’t bad and sure, weren’t we blessed with the weather?