7 Ways to a less painful school sports day

8:50 AM

Last year, I wrote a blog post called "Anatomy of a school sports day" which was a 22 steps description to how most schools in India treat parents during an even that is more fun for the kids than it is for the family.
It included the obligatory boring as hell Chief Guest speech, the school administration making their reports and listing their achievement for some extra PR. The relay of the flame, the mascot, the balloon launch, the uncomfy plastic chairs, lack of caffeine, semi-coma, "Frooti bombs" and all across chaos.

Needless to say that in all those years of schools I never really liked sports day, it's the equivalent of a lengthy board meeting during which you will only find 5 minutes of interesting content (in this case your child's performance).

Fortunately, the school we are in this year does things much differently, and I kid you not, it makes all the difference for the parents. The kids still get the same sportive fun in the end, but the parents are in a much better mood.
So much so, that I think a lot of schools should take a leaf out of that book:

1)Sticking to a schedule! Our school told us to drop the kid at 8am sharp and immediately proceed to the parent sitting area so that the event could start on time at 8.30.
To my surprise, they stuck to it! The children and officials all made their entrance at 8.20am, and the guest of honour started her speech at 8.30 after a very brief introduction by the principal.

2) Divide the masses to avoid chaos. Not all kids across all standards need to be present at the same time! We all know that parents only come to see the 5 minutes of action their progeny is involved in and don't care a hoot about the rest. This means it is unfair to make parents from standards 1 to 10 all sit at the same time for 5 hours.
Our school understood it perfectly and only standards 1 to 5 were summoned in the morning event which finished by 11am. Parents with older kids were in the afternoon event that started at 5pm, that way nobody fries in the sun or fight for limited seating space. Instead parents only get stuck for 2.5 hours, much more reasonable

3) Caffeine, oh wonderful caffeine! A school that understands that parents essentially live and run on caffeine is a good school. Parents are essentially bigger kids, they can't be kept sitting still on a chair for hours without being distracted.
In our previous school they only gave snacks and drinks to the kids, letting parents go without even a drop of water during their 5 hours long sentence of plastic chairs.
This school of ours played it much smarter: they moved the coffee/tea machine they have in the administration office outside and created a FREE coffee and tea corner for the parents.

4) Make it social. Let's face it, parents only come to cheer their own kids, it amounts to 5-10 minutes of excitement in the whole event. After that, they don't give a damn about anything but are stuck waiting until the end of the sports day to pick up their kids.
If you want hordes of parents that will chase toddlers, attempt to kidnap their kids to go back home and chaos, make sure it stays as boring as can be.
If you are smart, you'll know that parents will be happier and less disruptive if you provide them a place to stretch their legs and an occasion to chit chat.
This was the secondary use of the coffee/tea stalls our school event! Parents who already watched their kids leave their chair, make room for other parents to have a prime photography spot and spend the rest of the sports event drinking tea and coffee and meet other parents.

5) Feed the parents. If you want to score extra brownie points with the lot that pays the school fees and agreed to endure the sporting event for the sake of their kids, why just stop at the free tea and coffee?
Kids usually get packaged snack boxes at these events, why not double the order placed at the local chaat catering place and get some for the parents? Or at the very least offer it for a fee if you are too cheap to give away food to the very people that financially contribute to the school's running.
This year I was happy to get treated to a free mini chaat box and chocolate milk to patient until the National Anthem and subsequent pick up.

6) Save the PR speech for another time. As parents, we absolutely don't care about it. We don't care who the top scorers in the school are, what kind of obscure idiotic achievement the school got in a faraway event in the middle of nowhere, or what special teacher training event has or will take place. We don't care to be reminded about the "holistic approach" to teaching either. In case you haven't noticed, we are seated on those plastic chairs because we ALREADY enrolled our kids in the school, so save all that "ass shmoozing" crap for the annual newsletter (the one we throw in the dustbin as soon as it reaches us) or the bulletin, which we leaf through to see if there is a picture of our kid in it before discarding it.
The sports day is not the time for that kind of stupid speeches. It takes at least an hour of our time for nothing. It's not like we are going to give you extra money for that performance anyway!

Keep the sports day as short and sweet as possible people!

7) Make dispersal a breeze. Our school still failed a bit at that, but because the parents were not rabid with boredom the stampede was still minimal.
I think the best option would be to call each class parents one by one on the field to go pick up their kids. Most schools still choose to take the kids back inside and force the parents to squeeze themselves in a narrow staircase or wait at a narrow gate instead. But compared to all the previous years of agony I'd say the pick up time still went smoothly enough.

All in all, our sports day was an easy one, that ended with minimal frustration for everybody involved. All it took was a wee bit of planning ahead. I know, shocking! Right?

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  1. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Very true, sports days are agonising for the children more, because they have waited for a long time and getting restless for their event and the parents are worried sick about their children. I was particularly happy that my son now understands what he is doing be it the sports day or the annual day, and enjoys it. Earlier, perhaps the teachers were not keen on his active participation because of his disability. Now, he is very much part of the act like other children.

    The PR exercise also does not work at all, boring to the say the least, which the school indulges in at every given opportunity. Very recently, in a school orientation programme which starts at the end of academic session, the Principal gave a long speech on holistic education and various achievements of the school. Once the speech ended the parents were at her throat complaining about their genuine grievances, and she had no adequate answers. I think they kind of regretted giving opportunity to the parents to vent their grievances.

    The dispersal of children is exactly the same as you described, treating parents as criminals about to kidnap their own children. The school did not provide free meal but opened a stall for pizzas and coffee. When they charge such hefty fee then they can afford free meal for parents for one day.


    1. I am so glad the school we are in this year is doing away with that stupid PR speech, because it really brings nothing constructive to sports day, or annual day for that matter. Last year in our old school the list of achievements nobody cares about went on and on and on, it was ridiculous.

      I seriously think that one day a year the school should provide a free snack to parents, it's not like they are going to get broke ordering more snack boxes for the parents since they are already placing a bulk order for the kids and staff on that day. In the end the amount spent on these boxes would be what? 100 or 200 rupees per parents, surely they can manage that considering how much the parents pay in school fees per year.

      Our current school thankfully understood that perfectly and providing tea and coffee didn't cost them much anyway since they already have a Nestle machine in their administrative office, they simply brought it outside and had some of the service staff provide parents with beverages that way.

    2. Anonymous2:14 PM

      I also perplexed at what they call holistic education. It means more activities for the children. In my child's school they started abacus for one year and dropped it the next year. The same goes for many sporting activities. Atleast, let the child decide whether he/she wants to pursue it or not. The activities should be coherent and working towards some goal and not random experiments.


    3. Yeah Holistic is a marketing word schools just love because it can be interpreted many ways.
      In our school they follow the Cambridge curriculum and methodologies, which they were not doing in the old school, despite claiming they did.

      The extra activities in our schools are twice a week, and the child is asked to pick two of them at the start of the school year. Ishita picked dance and roller skating :-)
      All the stuff that are part of the curriculum are the same for all kids, so PE, Swimming, basic dance, music, and arts are as compulsory for all as English, Hindi, Maharati, Maths and Sciences.
      I know in her previous schools they added tons of "activities" but didn't go through with them seriously and Ishita told me she spent half the day sitting in her class with no teacher teaching them anything, so much for Holisitic approach and all round development!

    4. Anonymous11:14 AM

      Happy Basant Panchami to you and family. May Goddess Saraswati bless you with knowledge and creativity.


    5. Wishing you the same :-)

  2. Seriously, in Mumbai there's no reason the school couldn't greet the parents with a few boxes of Krispy Kremes at the start of the thing!

    1. No kidding! They extort hefty fees in every schools in Mumbai to begin with, and it is not like there is any shortage of snacks outlets and franchises to order in bulk from.

      In our old school they were not even providing water! Sure expect parents to sit quietly in the sun for 5 hours without even providing the most basic thing and then screech in the loudspeaker for parents to behave and refrain from trying to leave with their kids early...Duh!


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