Sports Day is the best day

Sports Day

Is exactly what it sounds like. But much more intense.

So, you know how American schools have homecoming, and the end in a school dance and watching the football players?? Therefore, leaving out the unpopular kids who don’t get asked to dances, or the kids or aren’t interested in watching sports…?

While American kids are worrying about what they’ll wear to the homecoming dance, who will be there date and what skit they should do for the homecoming celebration or parade…

Japanese high schoolers are busy having an all-school sports competition that lasts the ENTIRETY of two days of school.

It culminates with a full-class (there are about 40 kids in one class) jump roping contest. Yes, the kids ALL jump over one rope at the same time and see how many times they can get in a row.

Brackets! Boys basketball... My team is 1A.
Brackets! Girls basketball… My team is 1A. My girls won the consolation round on Day 2.

(I wish I could post photos — however, that would grossly violate so many ethical standards. But trust me, it’s freaking awesome. I can show you photos without faces, however.)

Sports days really are intense.

Every class is put into a bracketed tournament — basically a much cuter NCAA tournament at a Japanese high school.

Boys bball bracket

Badmitton and basketball for the girls and basketball and soccer for the boys. Each kid participates. It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer, or a dancer or a science nerd or and English nerd — you do it — and you’re competitive. Of course, some kids are better than others…  but IT is competitive. But they all shake hands and bow after each competition.

The kids wear shirts they’ve designed… which is another thing I found similar to Homecoming in the USA, as grades will often make class shirts.



Mickey Mouse themed shirt. (Disney is very popular here.)
Mickey Mouse themed shirt. (Disney is very popular here.)

There is a great sense of pride from class to class. (I should mention, each grade 1-3 (think, sophomore, junior and senior = 1, 2 and 3) is then split into 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, etc. etc.) Each has their own shirt that represents their class. My kids did a 1A<3, with their names on the back.

The glasses represent their homeroom teacher... lol
The glasses represent their homeroom teacher… lol

There was something delightfully engaging and inclusive about sports day.

That inclusivity is a broad statement. Of course, it seems some kids are more popular than others, and each kid does have their friends group, but every single kid in school — about 1,000 students — actually participates.

Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single thing I did in high school which the entire school did one activity.

So you’ve read this far, but all you’re really thinking is — what the hell is up with that jump rope thing?

Seriously. I’ve seen the kids, for an entire gym period, do the group jump roping. I didn’t realize they were practicing for sports day. Do you realize the amount of concentration and cooperation it takes to get 25 consecutive jumps with 40 people in a class to jump over a giant jump rope? I think the top number yesterday was 40….

I have to admit, it was exciting, and a little humorous. The teachers were surprised when I said I’ve never done nor seen anything like this at an American school.

I started to wondering why. Think back to gym class in high school. It was a joke, right? The kids who were good at sports monopolized the games, and the rest of the people were kind of left to fend for themselves.

I am surmising the kids pay attention in PE class to gain a basic level of comprehension with the sports they do on sports day in order to contribute something to the group.

That’s right — for the group. Many are aware that the Japanese culture is focused on the good of the group rather than individuals’ goals. So even if you “don’t like” badmitton, you’re probably going to try to get somewhat good at it in order to contribute to the group eventually — or at least just not embarrass yourself. (Though, from what I’ve seen, the kids seem to be pretty forgiving with varying skill levels.)

It changes the motivation from — I’m not good at sports, so I am not going to win anything or get any satisfaction from them, so, therefore, i am not going to do them, to… Well, I don’t really like this, but I want to try to do it so I will not let down the rest of my group.

Sports teach kids a lot more than how to through a ball. 


Meanwhile, I brought ultimate frisbee to my students today. And even started a mini game with some girls who were interested in it. That was AWESOME.

And, it’s the same thing tomorrow! The winners battle it out, which the people who lost today get to do a consolation round… (I wrote this sept. 17, so sept. 18 is the consolation round — happening right now… so exciting.)

It was so much fun, and so good to see my students have fun, too. I freaking love sports days.

Alana, myself and Tamai sensei

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