What Have They Done to Field Day?


No ribbons?!

One of my good buddies has a little girl in kindergarten. Now to look at him, you might not think Mike would be the “soccer dad” type, but he does a pretty good job of faking it. He called me earlier to tell me about his day. Seems the mother of his child “volunteered” him to help with Field Day. Now Mike, like me, had some fond memories of Field Day in elementary school, but what he described, and what TRIGOOBITM (who has her Field Day tomorrow) confirmed has totally destroyed a part of my childhood.

As Mike put it, “Coach, they’ve ruined Field Day!”

Now, if you remember field day like I do, you remember signing up for all sorts and types of athletic events that will never see the light of of an Olympic torch but which made for outstanding fun. I’m talking about wheelbarrow races, three-legged races, egg and spoon relay, and water balloon tosses. This was the day to see who was most athletic or at least who could be the best problem solver. Above all, we competed as INDIVIDUALS (or teams in the case of relays and the Tug-of-War) If you won a given event, you got a blue ribbon with a little tag on the back naming the event, then second place got a red ribbon and so on all the way down to the pale yellow ribbon proudly proclaiming you took seventh place! If you didn’t make it into the top seven (usually out of 15) then you got a purple ribbon that said in not so many words, you tried.

Apparently, they don’t do that anymore. Now, the kids compete “as a class” against “other classes” and no one makes notice of “winners” or “losers”. The flour sack race and the softball toss have been replaced by benign events requiring little or no grace or form. Worst of all as far as Mike and I were concerned, no one gets a ribbon! Of course, if you aren’t going to crown a winner, what’s the point in a ribbon? This is a tragic development. My buddy Wishbone still has all his Field Day ribbons from GC-O . . . every ribbon for every Field Day for every year, including BOTH his fourth grade years!

As I understand it, the traditional athletic gala that was the Field Day of my youth was too damaging to the psyches of today’s tender children. See, if you recognize a winner, then by definition, everyone else must be a loser and we have to avoid dividing the little ones into winners and losers at all costs. If someone actually compared a blue ribbon to a red ribbon, the poor child might be irreparably damaged.

This way of thinking is everywhere now. It’s why everyone on every team in rec league baseball gets a trophy even if they don’t win a game. It’s why peewee football doesn’t count the first quarter because “everyone plays” in the first quarter. Kids have to feel good about themselves so we have to avoid all pretense of “winning” and “losing.”

In the end, though, all we’ve done is make everyone a loser. We’ve created a generation of divas, male and female, who think they are entitled to some sort of reward just because they showed up and not just any reward, but a reward every bit as good as what the person who did “the best” got (although “the best” becomes rather debatable under these conditions.)

I hate to tell all the do-gooders and warm fuzzy makers out there who have emasculated Field Day, but the kids know who wins and loses. They are smarter than we give them credit for and they know it’s a sham. We had winners and losers and we turned out fine. I knew I’d never run as fast as Brian or Billy-Ray . . . and they knew they’d never have the grades I had. We had our niches and we were happy. Even Stephan was happy. Stephan had something wrong with him. I don’t know what it was, but when I was in school, we didn’t have short buses and “special classes”. Stephan was in class with me from K5 all the way to 8th grade. He wasn’t ever held back because everyone knew Stephan would eventually end up in a “home” where he’d be looked after.

At school, he was looked after . . . by us. Stephan tried to learn his times tables just like we did and when he got his 2s down by heart in fourth grade, the rest of the class congratulated him and cheered for him just like we did when Greg went from the 1s to the 12s in 2 minutes with no mistakes. Stephan wasn’t a loser; he was just different. He didn’t get a blue ribbon on field day because he didn’t WIN a blue ribbon . . . but he got a shirt full of purple ribbons because he tried and we appreciated him for that.

Not any more. Now, everyone is rewarded according to the lowest common denominator and we wonder why students have such fits when they don’t get their way. It all started going south when they ruined field day and took away the purple ribbons. I’m not sure what it’ll take to get things made right, but we need to start soon.

Until then, keep those feet clean and call me if you can hold your own in a three-legged race . . . I need a partner!

Love y’all 🙂

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