[Published date does not reflect any proximity to the event date as I was being uber lazy about finishing this post but was finally motivated since my fellow ALTs had their Sports Day recently. This happened back in early June.]
I finally had Sports Day! [henceforth SD] , aka Sports Festival to some Japanese schools and called undōkai (運動会) in Japanese. I attended my base school’s SD since, conveniently, it was during the school week which meant I could watch my students battle it out in the schoolyard instead watching them fall asleep in class. When and what events are in it vary, but elementary and junior high schools in town like to coordinate and make them all one weekend while high school just does their own thing. The students and teachers really take this day to heart and even go as far as to cancel classes the week prior in order to seriously practice the events beforehand. Kind of extreme when I think back to Field Day (same thing) at my high school which was merely a half-day with no practice beforehand, just fun competitions and silly ribbons for prizes.
I had high expectations for this day since I had attended a JHS SD and saw some really creative competitions, pep rally type stuff, and just lots of excitement from the students. I let myself down. I don’t know who comes up with the schedule for these things, but the events weren’t all that exciting or original. We had a five-legged race (five instead of three because it adds to the hilarity when they fall?), jump rope competitions, relay races, and lots of tug-of-wars. Yawn.
I did find some things interesting though. For example, before they started, they all spread out and did a series of stretches that everyone in Japan seems to know as a standard set. Even some of the parents that came to watch were doing them in sync with the students from the sidelines. Also, the opening ceremony had the students walk out and around the field Hunger Games style grouped in their homeroom classes with a leader carrying their homemade class flags. Some flags were pretty creative while others were like, um, sure good job.
ALTs have varying levels of involvement or even assigned duties associated with SD. My school doesn’t ask much of me even when I make myself available, so I just sat under the teacher tent or walked around taking pictures. As a side note, I was the only one wearing sunglasses despite it being a bright, sunny day. This led to some parents coming up to me to say I looked like a movie star, hehe. But, I’ve actually noticed this in other settings and wondered if there’s a cultural reason behind this. For now I’ll guess that it’s probably considered rude to not know where someone is looking when speaking to them. Let me know in the comments what you guys think it is or if you know the answer.
So at the end of the day, the class with the most points (from individuals, groups, or classes winning events) gets the big trophy that they then keep in their homeroom class for the rest of the year. This year, my all-girls 3-3 class snagged the prize and I was quite proud of them for showing some awesome girl power (especially as they owned the boys in the tug-of-war contests, haha!).
Let the Games begin!