After a fabulous day full of energy and excitement it is nice to reflect on Sports Day and appreciate why it is set out the way it is. Sports Day is a great day for students to explore their body’s capabilities, experience being part of a team and learn more about themselves.
For the majority of people it is a positive experience, something to look forward to and something to reflect on with fondness. Sadly for others this is not the case. For some students, being forced to compete in activities in which they don’t feel confident and to perform in front of peers and a wide, unfamiliar audience can have detrimental effects.
Strean (2009) has shown many adults have vivid memories of negative experiences in sport and physical education as children. Dagkas & Armour (2011) suggest that memories such as these, negatively affect physical activity participation later in life. As a Physical Educator in the current climate of sedentary lifestyles and obesity, it is important to minimise each student’s negative experiences and maximise the positive in order to encourage a healthy relationship with physical activity and continuance in later life.
The primary reason for children to participate in sport is ‘to have fun’ (Strean, 2009). In addition, learning new skills and being with friends are also high on the list. Most surprising to many adults, winning is right down towards the bottom of the list of reasons children give for participating in sport.
Sports Day at St Peters is fundamentally about having fun. At the forefront of our minds when we are planning the event, are the life-long effects – both positive and negative that these learning experiences have on our students. Some events are non-competitive, where we regularly enjoy 100% participation. Some events are competitive and while we encourage all students to participate in these, ultimately students are empowered with a voice and the right to choose.
The competitive races are a highlight for many students and most do choose to compete. It is this choice that sets us apart from many other Sports Days. We do not force students to compete, to be on display, if they do not feel comfortable. Would we as adults embrace running or dancing or singing for instance, if we were forced to compete in those areas in front of our peers and family? For many this would bring on feelings of inadequacy – especially if we already knew that we didn’t have a chance at winning. These are the feelings we want to avoid on Sports Day. If we felt confident and successful in particular skills we’d probably love the opportunity to put them to the test in a public forum, and this is why many competitive opportunities are also provided.
Sports Day should be fun. Should it be fun for those who excel at sport? Yes. Should it be fun for those who have average ability? Yes. Should it be fun for those who struggle physically? Those who are still developing their motor skills? Those who have lack confidence, who have low muscle tone, who have disabilities? Absolutely.
We want all students at St Peters to enjoy being with their peers, challenging themselves at their own level and have fun being physically active. This way we are celebrating our God-given talents and acknowledging that we are all unique and special with a variety of gifts.
One of our many St Peters students who thrived in Physical Education is old scholar Morgan Yeager. She has recently represented Australia in Basketball, played for the Adelaide Lightening and is now playing for the University of Oregon. She will be sharing her experiences with the students on Friday, 1st of April after Chapel – which begins in the Church at 8.50 am. All welcome.
Strean, W. B. (2009). Remembering instructors: Play, pain and pedagogy. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1, 210-220.
Dagkas, S., & Armourk, K. (Eds.). (2011 ). Inclusion and exclusion through youth sport. New York: Routledge.