Sports Day Ribbons…what’s happened to them?

Sports Day RibbonIndividual Sports Day Ribbons are obsolete unless of course you really know how to decorate your bike.  We acknowledge the ‘artsy’ kids but not the ‘athletic‘ ones.  Why is that?  We grade our kids in Math, Spelling, Art, Science, Social Studies, and PE in their daily school activities but we are afraid of hurting their feelings at Sports day.

Who decided that kids don’t need a ribbon for being the fastest in the relay or catching the most bean bags?  I understand that not everyone is good at sports but not everyone is good at art!  I think as parents it is up to us to encourage our kids and give them support for trying their best.  Sometimes your personal best is just not good enough to come first place!  Is that so bad?  Olympic athletes are going for the Gold metal but only few achieve it!  This doesn’t discourage them from training for years to give it their best.  Which sadly is sometimes not good enough, but we all still love to watch them try.

Sports day today is made up of  ‘Houses’ with names and colours attached such as the ‘Green Flaming Frogs’.  The kids in the school are divided up into those groups and their group competes for points in order to win 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place, as a group.  There is no individual ribbons given out anymore.  To make it worse they don’t even get their ribbon until the following week, when all the excitement has worn off.  Kind of like getting a pat on the back for something you did last week.  Anticlimactic!  There’s more…it’s also fixed on occasion just in case ‘yellow house’ has never won, they need a turn too.  What’s the world coming to.  Why can’t kids be acknowledge for their individual efforts instead of being lost in a group.  Come on it’s not a union job, it’s sports day!  There is nothing wrong with knowing as a child or adult that there will ALWAYS be someone bigger, stronger, faster, taller, smarter, funnier than you!  That’s life, embrace it.

Do we really think that kids would have as much fun or even want to put their best effort in if they knew it was fixed?  I hate to hear about sporting events being fixed.  It ruins it completely!  It’s not real!  Just like when you find out an Olympic athlete used steroids to win.  It’s not fair and you don’t really care about the results because it’s all made up.

When I was little every kid in the school decorated their bike.  You did it by yourself.  You didn’t want your parents help or it wasn’t your ribbon you won, if you won.  Your effort or creativity usually matched your placing.  Usually, just like in real life.  Makes perfect sense.

I spent the entire day with my kids at their sports day.  I love to see them having fun, being challenged and bonding with their friends.  I cheer them on with words of encouragement just to see the smiles on their faces while they try to balance a new potato on a spoon while running around a chair.  But much to my chagrin they still don’t give out ribbons to individual kids.

I remember when sports day was about trying your hardest and maybe coming home with a few colourful ribbons!  Sometimes you got 1st and sometimes you got 8th.  There was no ‘participation ribbon’.  If there were 6 kids in the race you could get anywhere from 1st place to 6th place.  You got a ribbon either way, it didn’t have to say 1st on it, it was just a different color.  At end of the day we all rode our bikes home talking about who won the relay or whose bike was the most creative.  We laughed and everyone loved the day from the moment they woke up to the moment their eyes closed that night from exhaustion!

I know I am not the only parent who thinks this or I wouldn’t have even thought it worth a post.  I don’t want any kids to feel bad at the end of the day for not getting the pretty purple ribbon but I honestly think this is adults sheltering kids from life lessons that they are more than equipped to deal with.  Perhaps a ‘sports day grinch’ story is behind it all.

I heard a couple parents talking last year about possibly arranging a ‘Rep Sports Day‘.  Tryouts will begin in the spring!  (that’s a joke)  Not a bad idea though.  House sports day or Rep?  Which would you sign your kids up for?  My son would be rep for sure!  My daughter, she’s just there for the fun experience, a true Canadian!  Did you win any ribbons as a kid or even care?

I recently had this article brought to my attention and wanted to add the link for those of you interested in reading more about Sports Day Ribbons!

Let school kids learn their life lessons early Skip self-esteem issues, stir up those competitive juices... by Jon Ferry



5 thoughts on “Sports Day Ribbons…what’s happened to them?

  1. Tracy, I couldn’t agree more! We celebrate the math wizards and the spelling bee winners but the kids who excel at sports get a raw deal. When I was at school, oh, so many years ago, we all knew which kids were going to come first at Sports Day and they were like our idols for that one moment. I had my chance in the spotlight when my poems were read aloud in class, my girlfriend was a singer in the school play, etc. We got our officially recognized kudos.
    I went through exactly what you’re talking about here when my own kids were in elementary school (but mine weren’t the athletic ones who were getting ripped off so I’m not talking as a disgruntled parent) . Most parents in general seem to support placement ribbons. It’s the school administrators who have taken the steps to eliminate real, healthy competition on Sports Day. I think some schools now call it Fun Day. At least that’s more fitting a title, sort of.

    I think the kids of the new generation won’t have the same strong memories of Sports Day like we did and that’s a shame. It’s just another watered down day that will have very little impact on their emotional development. Just a ‘get out of classroom work’ day. That’s sad.

  2. I ABSOLUTELY agree! My friends and I have discussed this as well. What’s the point of Sports Day! My kids just recently participated in a Track and Field Meet. They are good, and realize that there are kids that are better, and I can see them trying harder because they want a ribbon. Places 1-8 only get ribbons, so often there are 8-10 kids who get nothing! I personally think it’s good to be challenged, and strive to be better. Participaction – whatever. Let’s complain about how that isn’t fair, when my kids actually tried to do the event, and “Sally” got a ribbon anyway and didn’t do anything. (Or do I have the only kids that complain about the “lack” of participation of others?)
    Seriously…what are we telling our kids…just barely participate (in anything), and you should get a reward. Where’s the drive to do and be better?

  3. EXACTLY!! It may be a “Canadian” thing where we are trying too hard to be politically “correct” and then end up losing the point of why we compete in the first place. Sheesh!
    In our quest to avoid hurting some kids feelings we are actually giving them a false sense of reality. When they get out in the real world and have to compete for jobs and promotions etc., they will have a shock when their bosses don’t give them a pretty “thanks for participating” ribbon!

  4. This is a great point ! The School Board Administrators are one ones who decide on ” We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. ” This is a tragedy really ! We are teaching our children that they don’t have to compete……. wrong ! I don’t remember anyone in the corner upset because they didn’t win a ribbon at sports day when I was a kid…… ah….. but that was a long time ago ! Years ago one of my children was having a hard time in early elementary school and I asked in the parent teacher meeting if my child could be held back a year, Yes ! ( fail a grade ) They would not hear of such a thing…… It was a big deal ” Kids don’t fail anymore ! Why Not ? I have children in University now and let me tell you….. they fail you then ! If we don’t let are kids fail, they will never have the enjoyment of real success. Some of the most successful people I know have come from a lot of trial and error type businesses, etc. with several failures prior to great success. If we don’t teach them how to fail at something with their dignity and pride in themselves intact……. we will never be able to teach them to be successful at something with their dignity and pride intact.
    There Is No True Success, Without Some Failures along the way !
    There is more here as usual if you read between the lines of Tracy’s article…… Great Stuff !

  5. My son’s school just gave out ribbons to everyone, but graded 1st, 2nd and 3rd. They may as well have printed ” not even average” on the 3rd place ribbons. I think they should reward the kids that shine with a ribbon and give everyone else certificates or nothing. At least then it isn’t highlighted who the real losers are. It’s easy to explain to my son that not everyone can win, harder to console him when it’s highlighted that he’s one of the worst. In the old days his lack of prowess wouldn’t have been labeled so obviously. He’d just be one of the majority that didn’t come first second or third. Talk about a “fairness” policy backfiring!

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