How to Make Sports Day a Success for Parents


  • Sports Day was a great success for the children, less so for the parents
  • Lifemin shares tips for making Sports Day - and other school events parents are invited to - as parent-friendly as possible


Yesterday was Sports Day for my twins (Year 4/9 years old). The weather complied - a little chilly, but at least not raining - and dozens of parents dutifully showed up at 10am to watch their DCs (dear children) compete for glory for their ‘houses’. (‘Houses’ are cross-class and cross-year groupings that are signified by a special name and colour of t-shirt and only surface once a year - at Sports Day.)


It warmed my heart - and no doubt all the other parents’ - to see the pure joy, energy, camaraderie and physicality that the kids were experiencing. It was a moment that made me think *this* is the essence childhood. 


There were seven different games - spoon and egg race, an obstacle course, a variation on dodgeball, sack race, tug of war etc - and the groups rotated through each of them. The children had an absolute blast. 


It was incredibly well organised - for the kids. 


For the parents, however…not so much. We’d been told 10-12am and the activities didn’t start till a good 20 minutes after 10. There were some barriers up so that parents were too close to the activities - which is understandable, for safety and for keeping over-enthusiastic parents at bay. However it ended up meaning that it was difficult to see the children very well…and photos and videos were tough to take. Furthermore, we parents had only a faint idea of what the competition actually entailed so had little to no idea what was going on. For example, with tug of war, it was easy to see which side won, but there were multiple rounds against different teams, and unknown scoring systems, so we didn’t know who, in the end, won or didn’t. 


Not knowing who was winning or losing was the least of the worries. But it was indicative of the (absolutely correct) focus on making the event a great experience for the children, but perhaps less on the parent experience.


As parent-spectating school events go, it was on the underwhelming side, because it was both long and the involvement distant and superficial. (If it had been only one of these, it would have been more bearable.) So it ended up being mainly a chat with other parents while keeping an eye out on Sports Day, rather than the other way around. Nothing wrong with having a chat with other parents, but when parents take time out of their likely busy schedules - particularly working parents - please make it worthwhile!


How to Make a Successful Sports Day for Parents

  1. Limit the amount of time parents are welcome, or advised to attend. 1 hour max, or even better, 45 minutes. The event itself can be longer, and there can be a portion at the end designed for parent spectators, e.g. the ‘finals’ or the award ceremony.
  2. Make it first or last thing in the school day so it’s easier for working parents to attend. 
  3. Have a designated photographer (even a parent volunteer). This allows parents to watch and cheer and takes the pressure off having to get a good snap. 
  4. Let the parents get close. We want to see our children up close and the above notwithstanding, we want to be able to take good photos for our other halves, grandparents, and our photo books.
  5. Involve the parents! There’s nothing better than parents and children playing together. If the school can facilitate that (not saying it would be easy), it would mean so much. 
  6. Put us to work. If you see us on the sidelines, we’re more than likely ready and willing to help with scorekeeping or tidying up. 
  7. Make it as easy as possible to procure/provide any special gear for the day (eg coloured t-shirts) - keep a store to use every year so parents don't need to find one.