Every year, for one reason or another, school sports days hit the headlines. Sometimes it’s due to a perceived increase in ‘non-competitive’ sports days and the controversy that brings. This year, the Annual Sports Day Story came in the shape of a school in Cardiff banning all parents from future sports days after the behaviour of some parents degenerated into obscene language and threatening behaviour.

The Curate’s Egg That is Sports Day

The value in children taking in part in sport or physical activity is infinite, and it’s a drum we won’t ever stop banging, but school sports days have always been a bit of a curate’s egg; while it’s great that everyone gets the chance to take part in sporting activity, not all kids welcome this competition and it can be actively damaging and alienating for those children for whom the day can be incredibly daunting.

From our point of view, primary school sports day really should be a bit of a laugh – a gentle and even occasionally amusing introduction to competitive sport before secondary school where sport can, if a child is that way inclined, begin to be taken more seriously. The story of the parents in Cardiff is a grim and frankly embarrassing example of the very worst aspects of what school sports days should not be – screaming, cursing parents on the sidelines, aggressively roaring on their kids as they desperately seek the sweet, vicarious taste of victory. It’s clearly okay to encourage, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed and most of us manage to stay on the right side of that line. Some, it seems, do not.

Parent Invokes Video Replay In Egg & Spoon Controversy

One KUDOS member of staff witnessed an excruciating scene play out at his kids’ sports day just a couple of years ago when one unhinged parent went to remonstrate with a member of staff after her daughter had been awarded 2nd place in a ‘photo finish’. Amid scarcely believable scenes, the Mum, insufferable throughout the race, insisted on showing the teacher her video recording of the race which apparently ‘proved’ her 7 year old daughter had in fact won and retained her Egg & Spoon crown from the previous summer.

Happily, those particular protests fell on deaf ears. But while we can all have a good laugh at such needless and unconscionable behaviour, the embarrassment that sort of nonsense can potentially cause a child is immense, and it goes without saying no parent should ever go to such extremes.

The Mums & Dads Races

There is, of course, one aspect of sports day when it is more than acceptable to get ultra-competitive as well as ridiculing opponents: the mums and dads races.

We are old enough to know better and mature enough to deal with defeat. But defeat is not an option – at least not for the parents at KUDOS HQ. Yours truly had been unbeaten in the Dads race for four consecutive and frankly quite glorious years, until this year when the sight of a couple of new, younger and apparently much fitter Dads who had not lined up before led to a last-minute withdrawal due to a ‘bad back’. It meant the proud unbeaten record stayed intact – a boast I will continue to dine out on for many more years to come.

And so instead of hearing the stampede of unfit blokes behind me, this time I got to see the race from another angle – and the wonderful sight of some men who clearly hadn’t sprinted since the 1980s hilariously pushing themselves to the limit before going down in instalments and falling flat on their faces, made missing out on another title very much worthwhile.

If it can happen to former Chelsea and Netherlands striker Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, it can happen to any of us…

Don’t be the Pushy Parent!

Joking aside, pushy parents in sport is a very real and serious issue, and can have damaging effects on the kids around us. Sports Days surely should be fun – fun for our kids, and fun for us. What a shame for the school in Cardiff that felt it had to step in and ban parents. If any positives can come from such a sorry state of affairs, it is simply the reminder that sports days should and can be a laugh, a day to create sporting memories that parents and kids alike can look back on and smile together, win or lose.


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