Why should parents keep racing against the clock?

5th July 1996 at 01:00
We have reached that nerve-wracking, anxiety-ridden time of year again - your reputation is on the line and everything hangs on the next 15 minutesII refer, of course, to the parents' race on sports day.

In my daughter's first year at primary school, I naively went along intending to have fun and join in the spirit of things. I went from work wearing my usual straight skirt and court shoes, thinking nothing of it. But at the gates to the playing field I was amazed by the dazzle of neon lycra and the array of expensive trainers.

I did not win the mothers' race. Moreover my daughter had to withstand the trauma of her mother's failure and begged me never to enter again - she couldn't bear the embarrassment nor to be taunted and labelled as the girl with the slowest mum in the school.

Races for the parents really came to prominence when Princess Diana was first pictured racing and winning accolades for her sons. But some schools, I know, have already abandoned them. I assume they've sensibly decided to avoid the possibility of a heart attack on their grounds or - even worse - a death caused by the dramatic and often foolhardy exertion which seizes adults on these occasions. Perhaps they've already felt the consequences of parents competing against each other or spraining an ankle all because they wanted to relive memories of their own sports day and experience one last brief moment of glory.

Winning parents may be feted by their offspring and hero-worshipped by their children's classmates, but I remain unimpressed. I am not against competitive sports in secondary schools, in fact, they teach valuable life skills; your team loses this week, so what? You'll probably win next week or the week after, just forget about what's gone before and try again.

The children's events at my daughter's school are happy events. Everyone participates in the novelty races where speed and stamina are not so important and the team events which allow the most unfit, unco-ordinated children to win something. It's just the parents who spoil things.

Sue Purcell is a teacher in further and adult education.

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