School Sports Day: The Good, The Bad And The Incredibly Competitive Dads

There were a few things that surprised me about my eldest's first sports day: it didn’t rain (the school clearly knew better than all the weather apps), they had an egg and spoon race (but no sack, wheelbarrow or three-legged race) and how seriously sports day was taken.

A young girl in yellow t-shirt, black shorts and blue hat is walking with good posture in the egg and spoon race. The egg has just fallen off the spoon.

Most of the event was calm enough: the children moved round a circuit of activities practising each one before doing it for 'real'. Each class was divided into a four teams who competed against each other, but the Reception children didn’t take it very seriously. There were several times the child at the front of the line had to be reminded it was their turn and the rest of the team were more interested in waving to their parents than cheering on their team mates. While many of the children were clearly trying hard on their go, others calmly wandered along without any urgency. One of my daughter’s friends even told her Dad off for cheering her on.

The circuit consisted of 5 different activities (and a water station) where they had to race under a parachute, over a rope ladder, over mini hurdles and with an egg and spoon, as well as one throwing activity with the good old colourful bean bags thrown into hula hoops. I found it reassuring that much of the equipment was the same as I had used nearly thirty years before.

It was when they all lined up to do the sprint at the end that the competition stepped up a level. The sprint was the first (and only) event where the children were individually competing against each other. Groups of 8 raced along a short track and the lucky winner received a shiny medal. The excitement grew as this time there was no practicing and the parents standing along the track clearly knew now was the time to cheer. 

My daughter came 4th in her race and I’ll admit I feel a little sour about this. I managed to resist going over to coach her before she ran (start quickly, stick to your lane and take your hat off would all have been helpful advice), but she ran well. My problem was how they chose who ran against who. I doubt M would have won in any race, but she would have had a better chance. The girl who came 2nd would have definitely won in any of the other legs. Then the last race in her class was just a group of 3, how is that fair? Far less competition and no one would have been slower that 3rd. 

See that’s my competitive nature coming out, I tried to keep it hidden, but as soon as it became a proper race I wanted it to be fair and my girl to do well. The winner of the sprint races inevitably was all smiles with their medal around their neck, but were the other children doubting their ability to run well? Could it have put them off trying hard to run in future with the worry they were no good when they actually are? Maybe I’m over thinking things with my adult perspective. All the runners got a sticker which probably made up for not winning.

A young girl is running a race in school sports day, her hat is pulled so far down on her head she can hardly see where she is going.

The difference between how seriously the children and adults took the races became clear when it was time for the adults to run. The teachers were first, putting on a performance including some comedy warm up stretches. Of course all the children cheered and loved this race.

Next was the Mums' race. I had been surprised when we arrived at the event to see several Mums wearing sports wear and trainers and not what I was used to seeing them wear at the school gates. They lined up en masse and ran for it. A few women were super fast with a few trailing and complaining about the slippy grass or the difficulty running in flip flops. I was fortunately saved from attempting to run as M had disappeared off to the toilets.

The Dads' race stepped it up a level. The speed was phenomenal and the serious expressions on their faces clearly showed that the they felt the reputation of their child (or maybe their own reputation) was at stake. The 20 or so guys swarmed past us in their race for the finish line, with a couple falling over each other. I later discovered that one Dad ended up an injury (not sure if it was a cracked rib or collar bone, but it was some kind of broken bone).

This was a school sports day! Reception and Key Stage 1 and a parent got a broken bone? Apparently this wasn’t the first time either with injuries in previous years including a broken collar bone. One mum commented that they needed to sort the field out, but sprinting in a large group on grass the morning after it has rained is always going to pose a risk. The injuries aren’t unique to our school either:  a chat with some blogging friends revealed a Dad at Katy's children's school broke his collar bone and a Dad at Mrs H's daughter's school was on crutches for 3 months after their sports day. 

A mum at our school suggested that the parent races should be stopped, but should this be necessary when the only race where people seem to have injuries is the Dad’s race? It sounds like a risk acknowledgement form needs to be signed first with a line saying “come on guys, this is just a bit of fun”.

A young girl running in a hurdles race over small yellow bits of plastic

Once everyone had picked themselves up off the floor it was time to leave.  The sound of tears echoed round the field. This wasn’t the sound of the losing Dad’s but a number of the Reception children, including my own. The excitement of sports day, low blood sugar after missing their morning snack and parents leaving without them was just too much for some of the children. The poor teachers had to lead back a line of howling kids with the parents looking on in empathy. It was horrible to see my daughter walking away in tears, but I’ll admit to feeling a bit of relief that I didn’t have to deal with it myself. I’m sure the crying stopped quickly once inside and with a snack in their tummy.

So we survived our first Sports Day. No medals for our family, but with no injuries either I reckon it was a success.


  1. Gosh, I can't believe anyone would be so competitive as to break a bone at a kids' sports day! We haven't had ours yet but there was a cross country event to raise money for the PTA. I was surprised at the distance the reception kids were expected to run - I'd have struggled to be honest! I was a bit disappointed my daughter came last but the next day she came down with a stomach bug so I can blame that!! She's also one of the smaller ones so I don't expect her to win, I'm not particularly bothered as long as she enjoys herself.

    1. On the way to school that morning I told M said she wanted to win everything, but I told her that the most important thing was to have fun, it was just inside I wanted her to win. Enjoying themselves is definitely the most important thing.

  2. With my teacher head on I can definitely say that parents are far more competitive than their children. I have never had so many phone calls from home as when I ran a school netball team x

  3. Oh wow, I really don't know what to say to this :D it's kids sports day for f's sake :D

  4. I'm really looking forward to kids sports day when my little one starts school, it sounds like great fun!

  5. This brings back memories of my school sports day and I can't wait for my little one to have them! Good old egg and spoon race!

  6. Oh my, they still do parent races?! Fortunately I haven't come across them yet with Cameron. I am all for sports but not in that setting. I'm a competitive parent too and I hate it when things aren't done fairly x

  7. I can't stand sports day and parent races are ridiculous. But maybe that's just sour grapes in my part because I can't run to the end of my road without getting stitch! I've never liked sports and always told my pe teacher at school it was my period and I couldn't take part. Every week 😂

  8. Oh this made me chuckle!! One year in the mums race, a mum got elbowed at the start line and was knocked out!! Kaz


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