They are brutal and most definitely not for the faint-hearted; it was like watching some horrible scene, plucked straight out of The
Lord Of The Flies, being played out in front of my very eyes. It’s the world of the haves and the have nots but, for once in life it doesn’t matter how rich you are, how clever you are, how cool you are. The only thing that matters is your sporting prowess.
I have to admit I don’t think it’s a bad thing for kids to have to experience the horrors of the real world from time to time and so I
took a back seat and watched Darwinism do its thing. There were tears, snarls, trauma, pitiless resolve and, in the end, I think I healthy dose of resilience from most quarters. If it had been a social experiment, it wouldn’t have been too hard to see which kids were probably going to lack the fortitude to survive in the hurly burly that life invariably throws our way.
Now before you suspect me of being a Fascist, let me explain that I am no sporting hero myself. Sports days and PE in general were a form of hell for me as a school girl but, I survived and lived to tell the tale and I think there is a lesson to be learned in that. The kids who were good at sports, for that period of time (five hours a week and an entire day usually in June or July - see it’s seared into my memory), ruled the roost and by God were they harsh task masters.
For those of us not particularly blessed, it was a form of torture like no other. It would start with the humiliating selection of teams. I was always one of the ones that nobody wanted but thank God for the obese asthmatic girl who always, always was left until last. It was a selection based totally on merit and there was no place for sentiment; my best friend was often a team captain but would pass me over with no less determination than the other captains. There were no free rides when winning and losing was at stake.
Then there were the activities themselves, which at my school consisted basically of rounders, netball and hockey. All three were
equally horrendous leaving you at the mercy of psychotic, competitive girls, often wielding sticks and bats and out to win at any cost. I spent my entire school life in deep field or hovering around the edges of some court or pitch, hoping like hell the ball wouldn’t come anywhere near me.
The teachers were almost as bad as the girls. I’ll admit I did have a tendency to become distracted and lose focus during the interminably long games and my most memorable PE lesson was when a teacher threw a tennis ball at my face with such force I had a nose bleed for two days. There was no opportunity for whining though because all adults at that time would have agreed with the sentiments of the teacher. And don’t even get me started on the somewhat less than politically correct verbal admonishments.
I was actually surprised today because, once the wrangling of who was doing what was out of the way, the kids were pretty supportive of each other. I felt quite tearful when one girl, a natural athlete, won her 800 metres event and then went back to trot encouragingly alongside a girl who had been lapped at least twice by my count. There were shouts of encouragement and very little derision for the kids who didn’t win. It seemed almost tame compared to my school days.
I would like to suggest to all those people who want to ban competitive sports in schools and see sports days as a form of abuse, leave the kids alone. Step out of it and let them sort themselves out and, do you know what, they might just surprise you.