Tuesday 10 July 2018

When Sports Day is little to do with sport

Boy with trainers balancing

I loved Sport's Day when I was in Primary School.  Why?  Because in many ways it was one of the few places I fitted in.

Most of school I focused on doing my best.  In many area's this made me unpopular, because I was also fairly good at a lot of things too. I was called Teacher's Pet and various similar names.  That was until Sports Day, when suddenly I became the most popular girl in my school house.

I placed in the top three for most sports.  But I was best at running.  Cross-county, long distance, sprint, I did it all.  In the 100 meter race I'd easily finish several strides ahead of a virtually equal 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.  I was picked for the relay team, not only for my year, but for the year above me too.

I was cheered at instead of jeered at.  My efforts were celebrated by my peers not just me and my parents - even though all I was doing was trying my best, just like I did in the classroom.

In some ways, Sports Day for my kids is also about fitting in.  But not in the same way it was for me. For our autistic son, Sports Day is more about being able to fit in with the demands of the day.  It's about coping with change, dealing with the competitive nature of the day and arming him with strategies to do this.  When he is presented with something competitive or different in this world after school he will have gained some experience of this.

Trying his best involves not getting upset when he loses, dealing with the instructions in a pressured environment and just taking part.   Developing strategies for these and practicing using them provides him with choice. So when he actually wants to do something in his life, he can.

My son will try for many years to 'fit in' to a world that wasn't designed with him in mind.  There are many initiatives to raise awareness of autism and to support autistic people and this is great.  But for many opportunities, my son has to develop ways to cope that don't rely on others making big adjustments all the time.  This will help him be more independent.

He'd still rather not do Sports Day at school (that's an avoidance strategy).  But the more he takes part in them, the easier it seems to get.  And I'll cheer for that.

What do you think about kids Sports Days?  Did you have one this year?


  1. I think they're a good idea in theory but in practice can be challenging for many.The parents race ... Just no ...

  2. Aww it looks like he did really well! My son has autism and goes to a special needs school. Parents weren't invited to their sports day so I didn't get to see him joining in. #CoolMumsClub

  3. I hated sports day as I was always the only kid with no parents there. (My dad worked and my mum was always too busy doing her own thing to bother). The joys of being the youngest of 6 kids I guess - she was well over sports day by the time my turn came arid haha #CoolMumsClub

  4. Sports day is a bit of a weird thing isn't it but - I think it's great that he is taking part though because that's a massive achievement in itself and definitely one to cheer for! Thanks for linking up to #coolmuclub with this xox

  5. I loved sports day too as this is where I excelled. I think it’s good for children to have their time to shine but understand that it is a tricky day for others. #coolmumclub

  6. I hated anything to do with sport at school as I was always picked last by kids. I do hope that things have changed so everyone feels more included. #coolmumclub

  7. I was like you at school. Academic (I was called a boffin), did what I was told, played a lot of music and sport. I loved sports day until teen years when we had to wear only gym knickers without our PE skirts over them. I used to do javelin which was held in the morning so without everyone viewing it, and then the relay because we had a great team.

    My son's sports day is nice because all the children support those who struggle. N enjoys it but he's not really competitive. Unfortunately, his year group has too many boys to fit into 1 race and he's been randomly put int the race with the 3 superfast children. He knows he'll never win but he did get 3rd in the egg and spoon race. What I did find strange is that the year 6 boys 'threw' the sack race, so 1 child got basically carried over the line by teachers. I didn't get that, but the school and kids #coolmumclub

  8. My son started a special school this year after 4 years home ed. It was such an amazing and magical experience we all felt quite emotional. The school included EVERYONE and it wasn't about winning, it was just about being happy. There were kids in wheelchairs, kids on walking frames, kids with severe disabilities being gently guided along by the school staff, everyone was cheering ALL the children and nobody cared who won because they are all champions. It was such a beautiful day and so different to my school experience of sports day, which was very competitive!


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