Sports Day at Shenzhen Baocheng Primary School

Sports Day 2017

Sports Day at our Chinese School!

Since arriving in China, I have been impressed with the amount of physical activity that I see everywhere. I have always heard how the students do nothing but study all day. Soemtimes when I see my students, I think they do nothing but run around yelling all day. They have so many opportunities to get physical exercise. From seven o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night, the students are out on our sports courts playing basketball, running and marching. I would think that is enough, but they also spend a lot of time chasing and wrestling each other in between classes as well.

Being the only foreign teacher at my school and a mom, I was not asked to participate in any of the preparations for the 24th Sports Day here at this primary school. For two weeks, the preparations have been in full force. The students are practicing dances, twirling and singing in preparation for the opening ceremonies.

I could not understand the importance of a sports day for the entire school. To my Western mind, a whole day for the entire student body to participate in sports is inconceivable, let alone three days. I asked around until I received a better understanding as to why have a sports day. The answer: Tradition. The Chinese schools have Sports Day because that is what has always been done and because it is what you do.

One adminstrator with whom I spoke said that the final exam for high school students now contain a physical education portion. The students must pass this portion of the test. Because it is basically the simpliest part, worth 120 points, students try to keep active when studying. Physical education classes are at least three times a week for all students in primary and secondary schools.

Sports Day Parade

Sports Day Parade

When Sports Day finally arrived, I was pleased to stand on the sidelines, take pictures and watch the festivities. Every class, with the exception of Grade 1, performed a small 30 second routine and participated in the parade. That means 36 classes marching around the school in full makeup and costume. They performed for each other and for their parents. It was beautiful.

Sports Day 2017

So many elaborate costumes for the Sports Day Parade

Not being fluent in Chinese, I did not enroll Bean in any activities. I wasn’t sure if it was mandatory or if I needed to be there. I knew nothing. Thankfully, she has a kind headteacher who signed her up to participate in some sports events. Bean has never been in a competition before, so she isn’t as competitive as some of the other children. She did have fun though.

hula hoop

Extreme Hula!

Sports Day teacher

Bean and her teacher on Sports Day

I am a very strong advocate for physical activity for everyone. I wonder how many children would become interested in living a more active life if it were accepted as a part of the daily routine; especially if they could have a Sports Day! What do you think?

7 Comments on “Sports Day at Shenzhen Baocheng Primary School

  1. While I love using my body and being active, I detested almost every gym class I had as a child. I do not like the competition of sports and other ways to be active (dancing, synchronized swimming, yoga) were not offered. Sports day sounds like a nightmare for people like me.

    • i undertand what you are saying. Sports day participants,i.e. runners, are only the children who want to. They get to sign up. The whole class participates in the parade and program.

  2. I have to say I personally felt like Fawn and hated school gym, am not competitive in any way, shape or form and considered myself unsporty for years. In fact, I played outdoors all the time, rode a bike, ran around and climbed, adored gymnastics in the garden with my friends (Olga Korbutt, anyone?!), went swimming all summer and ice-skating all winter, rollerskated for fun, walked my dog for miles and so on and so forth, culminating in a serious horse-riding hobby. Yeah, not sporty. Not team sports, anyway.
    Having said that, I am horrified by what I hear about sports/gym at schools in the UK and US nowadays and the lack of PE (and arts for that matter, where have your art and music classes gone??!).
    Here in Switzerland, my three daughters had a sports’ day every summer that all enjoyed, though it wasn’t as high profile as the beautiful parades your photos show in China. Sports figured on their timetable twice a week and to get to secondary school, my two older daughters had to cycle several miles, returning home at lunchtime before going back for afternoon classes most days. Sports was part of their high school diploma, too, including a minimum time achieved for running a short distance, among other things. They also played outdoors in the village neighbourhood a great deal without need of supervision, running, rollerskating, skateboarding, team games, ballgames, playgrounds, cycling, outings in the woods or to friends’ farms nearby where they would make forts in the barn straw bales etc. It was not allowed to bring or pick up children from school by car on a regular basis, they were all expected to walk. If they lived outside the village boundary they were allowed to cycle to the boundary and leave their bikes in a safe place before walking to school with the others. I am talking 1990s, not 1890s!
    In many cases, this is still normal – my grandson (9) cycles to school (a 25 minute walk) alone and with peers while my granddaughter (6) takes her kickboard to kindergarten (same place as school – and it’s uphill most of the way there…), also on her own with other kids on the same route. This is the way things are done in Switzerland! Unfortunately, a high proportion of foreigners have more angst and it is sad to see the influence when they insist on accompanying kids way beyond necessity or driving them to and fro. The attitude here has always been that the social interaction on the school route is as important for development and self-sufficiency as any other. Yes, it has to be learnt and yes, I have run around the village looking for my child on occasion until they learnt that they cannot just go home with another child or stop to play with someone else before coming home or letting me know! They have also all at some point come home soaking wet, either from rain/snow or from having dipped their heads in the village fountain because it was so hot and this was the best way to cool off… call it tradition ;). When society works this way (and moms have to be home to cook lunch…), parents know everyone’s children and everyone else’s children know all the parents and there are boundaries that children will not breach for fear of retribution. In the days of common sense, I could tell a child off for doing something it shouldn’t, even if it wasn’t my own, now that is over and children are totally over-protected, you can’t tell someone else’s child not to bully, or throw stones, or cross the road properly, or not tease a dog or cat… that is sad. Some things change for the better, some change for the worse. I hope a lot of the way my kids grew up in the 90s is still possible for my grandchildren, including plenty of physical activity and sports’ days!!

    • Thank you so much for that!! I am living like I do because I too believe in the importance of children developing self-sufficiency and engaging in the social interaction she receives when not under my supervision. She would love to walk home, having seen many European, African and now Chinese students walking. However, the way traffic is here, she may will need to wait!

  3. So I take it your daughter is enrolled at the school you teach at? What a neat experience for her! Is she picking up Chinese?

    • She is not officially enrolled, however she is allowed to take classes just like the other children at the school. She is picking up Chinese (I am TOO!!) and loves to tell people that she speaks more Chinese than I do.

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