A sports day without stress and unhappiness

18th August 1995 at 01:00
I would like to invite Sally Smith (Talkback, August 4) to come and enjoy sports day at our local primary school, from which the last of my children has just graduated. Ten years ago the school introduced "circuit allsports" as a way to avoid the tension and upset described by Mrs Smith and, no doubt, familiar to most of us from our own school days.

Now, on sports day, every child is likely to win at least one event and even the parents get some exercise (those with two or more children to support get lots of it) as they progress round the circuit with their offspring.

The school field is marked out for about 26 different events ranging through fancy-dress relays to running on all fours to welly-wanging. The children are sorted into 26 groups with about eight in each plus a mentor who may well be an ex-pupil now in Year 9 at the local community college. Each group begins the proceedings at a different event and works their way round the whole field co-ordinated by a bell in much the same way as a gymnastics competition. Each event is marshalled by more Year 9 ex-pupils or volunteers among from the parents.

This means that everybody is actively participating throughout the whole occasion. There are so many events that success in a few can easily obliterate the less happy memories of failure in the rest. The groups of children and the variety of skills and attributes required by the different events are chosen to give as many children as possible a chance of winning at least one event.

The pure sprint races are reserved for the pre-schoolers "dash for the lolly" and the mums' and dads' 100 metres which round off the whole day.

I have supported at least one of my children every year at either the Junior or Infant Sports Days and we have all enjoyed every one of them. I had thought that the old-fashioned Sports Days were a thing of the past - incomparable with the experiences of my own children.

I hope that more schools develop different styles of community sports. The stress and unhappiness witnessed by Sally Smith are entirely unnecessary.

Hilary Chivall lives near Peterborough, Northamptonshire

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