Imagine the scene: gentle green plain; grass covered banks shaded by trees; clusters of people mingling, reforming and flowing back and forth. The crackle of a PA system, bottoms sliding off plastic chairs, plastic glasses of squash. Cheering, celebrations, tears. White tape held three feet off the ground. Children stopping to wave at their parents. Legs like whippets’ hairing to the finish line. Favourite toy brought along for the race.
Yes, it can only be school sports day.
Having been postponed twice for bad weather, it finally went ahead this morning. First was the littlest of the littlies: the Nursery races – sack races, run to get the beanbag and stick it in the bucket races, and sprints. Teachers running alongside, encouraging them to keep going; scooping up the smallest and helping them ‘leap’ two metres at a time in a sack; pointing them in the right direction.
And overall, the sound of cheering. Encouraging them to keep going, cheering every single one as they crossed the finish line.
Reception, years 1 and 2 had intermingled races next. Obstacle races with a hurdle, through a hoop, then balance a beanbag on your head, finally under the net and race to the finish. Technique really won through on that one. Beanbag on head races, egg and spoon races, sprints. Even an elite skipping race. Far fewer children in that race – we, as parents, presumed it was limited to those who could actually, you know, SKIP.
Moments of pathos – the race leader falling just before the finish line to be beaten into third place (she later won another race); a little one helping another through an obstacle; Years 1 and 2 cheering on Reception children – by name! (Yes, I love this school. I love the community feel about it all.)
And my son being so pleased that he got a sticker of every colour, having got a sticker at the end of each race he competed in. That, I think, meant more to him than the fact he won two of his races (egg and spoon, and beanbag balancing on the head. I knew there was a reason why I didn’t bother to wash his hair last night. Shiny hair would have made it far more difficult…!)
Two words that struck fear into every adults’ heart, sitting there in the bank.
One volunteer. Not a sporty person, but giving it a go. Her son delighted and coming out the Reception shelter to sit by the teacher.
Then another mum called out the audience, by dint of wearing trainers.
They only need four. It’s a ‘Great British Summer’ race – carry an oversized icecream, pick up a watering can, and then an umbrella. Put up a deckchair, sit down and put up the umbrella.
Two more. That’s five. Two heats started.
No way. I do not run. I am not sporty. I will embarass myself. Badly.
I went down the bank to the start line. As I did, my son RAN out of the Reception shelter to sit next to the teacher. And there was a cheer from Reception.
I did it. I was flanked by two dads who were head and shoulders above me. I almost fell flat on my face as I bent to pick up the watering can. I got the folding chair up, and the umbrella flew inside out.
I was last (although not by TOO much), but I found I had a smile on my face. I was cheered on by a raft of Small People. I was cheered on by the other parents. And I have a sticker to match one of my son’s.