Anatomy of a school sports day

5:54 PM

If you had any doubts about how hard being a parent can be and how much of a demanding and agonising job it can be at time, any school functions should do the trick at clearing them.

I can really only speak of my experience in India, but I am sure my parents hated school functions they had to be part of as much as I hate them now that I am in their proverbial shoes.

That said, among the worst of the worst of the events that can be hurled at you in India, "Annual Sports day" makes the top of the list.
Ishita is a 1st grader, and I already had my fair share of them. Each year they get worse, and more unbearable, and this blog post is coming while my butt is still super sore from sitting on a plastic chair for 5 hours this morning.

5 long hours of speeches, ceremonies, pomp, military marching, and official bodies recognition, all this to get to see my daughter perform a few cartwheels and a karate chop for 5 minutes.
It's the same every year, and as a seasoned parent you know that this is the day of unavoidable agony, that you must attend. Mainly because your child is super exited about it and practiced for weeks (guilt trip anyone) and because the school's officials have an uncanny ability to force you to stay in your seat by refusing to release children after their performance.
I compiled a list that WILL happen at any of these dreaded sports meet and for which you shall be prepared:

1) The invitation will ask you to be seated by a specific time, say 8.30am even though we all know that once translated in IST it means 9am or later.

2) You must arrive at 8am if you want to have a decent shot at glimpsing your child's exploits. Simply because most Mumbai schools have over 2000 students and it means at least 2000 devoted parents all fighting for the prime photo and video capturing first row.

3) Officials and the Guest of honour run on IST, this means they won't see it fit to come at 8.30, but closer to 9.30.

4) This leaves you with plenty of time to people watch and hear a remix of "Is this seat free?" and a few parents that came at 9am to declare it is unfair that people save chairs for their spouse.

5) Once the officials made their entrance, parents must be immediately put into a semi comatose state by running a competition for the most boring official speech. As a result you are submitted to performance reports, a reminder of the school value, punctuated by frequent mention of the various trustees and philanthropists associated to the cause of your child's bright future prospect.

6) By then the Guest of Honour is looking as bored as the parents, so they proceed to delivering gifts and flowers to the VIP and ask said guests to make a know just for good measure.

7) Once all the bla-bla has been done with the opening ceremony can start. Parents are asked to stand for the school prayers, and most are happy to get off their butts, as they've all been sitting for over an hour.

8) Following the school prayer is the flag parade, all houses march, and it may or may not be a competition. Minus the military salute, it is full of "Attention" "At ease" clipped marching and heavily codified flag movement. By then most parents are going back into their comatose state, except for those who have kids in the military marching style parade who are all out with their smart phones and tablets.

9) Then they will launch balloons and unveil the mascot, which isn't even a school one, but a Disney character or an animal chosen just for that edition. This year it was an Eagle supposed to inspire majesty and exellence. Well, we parent excel at sitting on plastic chairs pretending to there!

10) And because unveiling a silly mascot isn't enough, we must all witness the passing of the flame, because God forbid we don't get as much oomph as the Olympics.

11) Finally, all students recite the pledge for fair play and spirit of sportsmanship...don't ask me or any parent how it goes, we were all listening to the voices in our head, namely the ones screaming CAFFEINE

12) Let the smart phone supremacy war begin! The actual sporting events start, and each class gets a maximum of 3-4 minutes in the spotlight.  Parents stand, ignore all warnings of remaining seated and not taking pictures or videos.

13) The school then proceed by putting everybody back into that blissed state of coma by listing all the achievements of the school in various sporting events through the year and deliver awards for the same.

14) The officials then all vanish to the comfort of an AC room and good breakfast while parents are reminded to please stay seated for the track events. Track events for which only a few kids from each class are selected.

15) 90% of the parents try to bear with the heat and dehydration on their plastic chair wondering when they will get to pick up their kids. Sure the invitation said 1pm, but hey it is 11am, they can't make you go though 2 hours of that crap right? They have a heart, they sympatise with the people that pay the fees? Right? RIGHT?

16) WRONG parents that attempt to retrieve their kids are publicly humiliated on the loud speaker and reminded that we have to stay put until the end. The warning is delivered by a staffer since all the officials have vanished and don't give a hoot about kids running in the sun on the track.

17) 2 hours of parents rubbing their neck, back and crossing and uncrossing legs. Babies start crying and we all spy the staff doling out snack boxes to the students...lucky them!

18) 30 minutes from the end of the ordeal the impatience is highly perceptible, among parents and students alike. Parents are or half dead on their chair, or walking around desperate to regain blood flow in their buttocks. Students have all launched themselves into the timeless game of making their empty "Frooti" box explode or are running a contest of who is going to rocket the Frooti straw further on the sports field.

19) The officials come back to a scene of chaos : Parents chasing toddlers on the field, and Frooti boxes exploding all over the place. They deliver a few more words to attempt to sedate the dissidents back to their seat, istribute a few more awards and announce that now is time to close with the National Anthem.

20) The last Jaya He uttered parents bounce off their plastic chair and rush to the school building to beat the stampede and escape Sports Day hell with their kids in tow. Anarchy reigns supreme!

21) This is followed by a mad rush for Auto-Rickshaw finding to go back home. Wise and seasoned parents know this is futile and march to the nearest junk food joint to eat what is probably their first real meal of the day at 1.30pm. You are sure to find half of the school in those restaurants, and you can tell from all the sports day uniform. The kids are still hyper, the parents are just glad to be in AC

22) You finally make it home and realise that you are dead beat tired from not doing much of anything at 3pm while your kid still bounces up and down on the sofa.

I don't know about you, but I am convinced that Sports Day is the parent equivalent to Board Room meeting boredom...

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  1. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Oh I think I now know why some parents hate attending these events. I studied in a very good convent school and our sports day was celebrated with much pomp and fervour. It was for this day that we'd rehearse for days to come and so I thought that the excitement would be infectious. I never understood why my parents never showed much enthusiasm until my sister became the head girl because she got to lead the march past. I once invited my aunt and cousins and they thought the events were jaw dropping and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Also our school never waited for the chief guest to proceed with the events. Our schedule would go on and just 10 min before their arrival we'd go and welcome them. Also they never lasted more than 3 hours and parents could leave whenever they pleased as soon as their kids were done with performing.

    1. In Switzerland the sports day is a no parent, no pomp and oomph event, just sports and a picnic on the grass with the classmates, but there was the last day of school ceremony every year, parents used to hate it, because the Mayor was giving the speeches and it was all political LOL
      There was also a parents and kids 2k race thing that was mandatory, but the school would at least provide parents with coffees and cookies. And there was the annual day which was the school folks choir concert, all kids in the school were part of the choir, but none were as painfully long as the sports days here.

      It would be great if the kids could leave after their event and be done, you can see how pissed and tired everybody is after a few hours LOL

  2. HAH!
    So Ishita is 6 yrs old & they expect children her age to tolerate 5 hours of this tedium too?

    1. Yes of course, they also think it is ok to make 6 years old do 2nd Grade Maths, learn about fractions and put them through term exams full of maths word problems the kids can't read :-(
      At least on Sports day, they provide them with snacks and water for that whole time, parents are left to fend for themselves and are reprimanded if they lift their butts of their plastic chairs. Surprisingly the 6 years old were still full of energy after that ordeal, parents not so much.

      Oh well, I am changing schools next year, the new one seems to be far more level headed and all the parents i know have kids in that one rave about it, it's also much smaller and less crowded, so kids get better individual attention.

  3. Oh my god!! This sounds so exhausting. I guess I am never going to have kids.:D

    Every time I read any of your school related post, I wonder, as I am an introvert, how will I deal with all this school stuff and socializing for the kid's sake, if and when I have to.

    1. You could end up with a child that hates it as much as you do and want to spend time alone :-) I myself happen to have a daughter who is highly extroverted, so yeah, social events are a must and it can be tiring for my poor introverted self. I manage to strike some sort of balance though, but it's not easy, school holidays are really though for both of us, my daughter resent the lack of stimulating crowd around her and I resent having less alone time to fully regenerate. Sigh

    2. Anonymous11:58 AM

      Do u have a whatsapp group with other parents. apparatus whatsapp has become the choice of most parents to discuss school related issues. text papers and homework is clicked and shared. even teachers are on whatsapp. I know my wife handles this social networking.


    3. Yes we have a group for the parents of children in the same Division, no teachers though, the school has a website with a parent login interface thing but they aren't keeping it updated.
      The issues we had with the school this year and tried to address all went unanswered as the coordinator is the Queen od diplomatic canned statement and nothing moves forward.


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