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No winners or losers on Sports Day

Too much fun and not enough game, one parent says

Why did competition get cut from Sports Day?

That's what a Sapperton parent wants to know. Colin Milburn was disappointed to learn that his daughter's future school, Richard McBride Elementary, doesn't do "Sports Day" in the way he remembers it.

He heard from another parent who told him that the school doesn't do Sports Day, but instead has a "fun day" now.

"I said, 'What does that mean?' They said, 'Well, they don't want to compete,' and I thought 'That's kind of strange,'" Milburn said. "I grew up in East Van, and we had sports days, and you won first, second, third place or you didn't win at all. That's just life, right, but at the end of the day you get ice cream and everything's fine."

Milburn said he's talked to others, including a teacher, who share his view that learning about competition at a young age prepares kids for the inevitable ups and downs of life.

"Later in life, you learn when you don't get a job, when your girlfriend dumps you, whatever, you're not disappointed. There's not all of this shock and awe," he said. "If they don't learn it young, they are going to learn it eventually."

Milburn has two kids, aged four and two. His oldest daughter will start at the school in 2013.

Growing up, Milburn played sports and said he was more of an athlete than an academic. Sports taught him teamwork, he said.

"I grew up in East Van, and our lacrosse team was pathetic, but I still enjoyed it," Milburn said.

McBride's parent advisory council chair, Laura Swanson, agreed with Milburn that Sports Day is different now.

"But that just seems to be the way it's become - everybody has to be treated equally, everyone has to get the same things," she said. "I remember back to my Sports Days in elementary school, and it was competitive. People got first, second and third place, (and) people got nothing.

"What I see in school now is kids aren't allowed to be competitive. ... and it's unfortunate because there are kids that excel academically, but the kids that are not academic - that excel on the sports field - are not recognized in the school."

But Swanson has also seen the dark side of competition, when kids become too competitive and cruel.

"I have memories of a district track meet, a few years ago, where, unfortunately on someone's very poor planning, the lastplace ribbon was black. And one of the girls at our school had a chest full of black ribbons at the end of the day, and she was in tears because not only was she represented as being last, but she was also teased by other participants, the ones with the blue ribbons plastered across their chest."

Cutting competition out of Sports Day is a "tough call," Swanson said.

Last year, McBride awarded ribbons for first, second and third place, but changed this year because some of the teachers "didn't seem to support" it being competitive, and because there were kids in tears who didn't fare as well as others, Swanson said.

Also, at the end of last year's Sports Day, which is organized by the parent council, there were rippedup ribbons strewn all over Sapperton Park, she said.

"We decided, money not well spent," Swanson said.

This year, they ordered just one type of ribbon for every student - a blue and gold one for participation.

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