Reminiscing About Inter-house Sports Day – By Efe Remawa

The value of sports for health, wellbeing, team spirit, scholarship opportunities, fostering unity, sense of purpose should not be overlooked.

Secondary schools pupils during an Inter-house sports event / Photo credit: The Guardian
Secondary schools pupils during an Inter-house sports event / Photo credit: The Guardian

Inter-house sports day (“sports day”) is when primary and secondary schools host their annual sports competition in Nigeria.

In many schools, students are grouped into houses for planning, organisation and the actual competition.
Usually, sports day is held in the second term of the school session.

I attended one recently.

It brought back memories of my school days. I attended a “unity school”.

I noticed some similarities and of course, differences.

I recall that the sports day term was a big deal for athletes and non-athletes.

It was exciting, filled with house loyalties and the spirit of competition.

On resumption, sports practice was intensive.

Lots of track and field events to participate in.

Day students stayed behind after school for practice and sometimes slept over in school.

It brought changes to the normal school routines.

The athletes were stars/heroes during the term.

As the term progressed, it became clear who the main contenders were.

Practice was taken seriously before the best were selected for each event.

Heats lasted for about 2 days.

The finals of some events took place during the heats, while the more exciting events like the 100m, 4 x
100 relay, took place on sports day.

Sports day felt like a celebration.

Parents, dignitaries, other schools were invited to compete also in an event called “invitation relay”.

Even the non-athletes like me were not left out.

We wanted our houses to excel.

We tried in our own way to make the day fun and colourful.

We were glad to see our parents, guardians, siblings and friends from other schools.

Fast forward to 2024!

The sports day I recently attended at a private school was similar in certain aspects.

The students were dressed in the colours of their respective houses.

I was impressed that the school band provided the music for most of the event.

The school band played exceptionally well.

There was no need to invite a band. Drums, trumpets, keyboards, flutes etc.

In my time, a band usually was invited to provide music for the day particularly the march past.

However, the march past left much to be desired.

Some children “walked or strolled past”, some did not know their left from right.

If children are not taught to march properly, then an athletes’ parade would be more befitting.

Just like at the opening ceremony of sports events like the Olympics.

I noticed the turnout of students was low and found out that some day students chose not to attend.

In my time, you missed sports day because you were very ill. Nothing else could stop you.

Parents were quite excited, very involved and eager.

Parents of each house sat together and cheered vigorously.

Wearing colours of their children’s/ward’s respective houses.

Our parents were more formal, reserved and certainly did not wear our house shirts.

It was nice to see the tradition of staff and parents’ races were still in vogue.

However, there seemed to be quite a lot of injuries.

The school’s medical team was so busy.

Too many students were carried off on stretchers.

I was informed that the use of stretchers in previous years was worse.

I noticed a parent who was so anxious about her child getting injured she could barely cheer him as he ran his race.

I understood why when I found out that sports practice started less than a week before.

Any random and willing student was selected to represent their house.

This explained why many students sustained injuries as they had not trained and practiced enough.

The sports arena was well built and allowed spectators a good view of the entire field and tracks.

Watching the track events was fun, though it was obvious that some students were unfamiliar with basic athletic rules like not crossing lanes.

Some lanes were not properly measured allowing for undue advantage to some runners.

Some races had to be cancelled and done over because of these errors.

The importance of fair play in sports must never be overlooked.

Schools with adequate sports arenas or facilities should utilise them well.

The day was still an exciting day.

We cheered the athletes for their effort and courage despite the lack of preparation.

Is it pointless to compare sports day activities then and now?

I acknowledge that there are some differences: like one being government-owned while the other is a private school.

There is also the fact that my recollections are from childhood.

Can an event in the mid 1980’s -1990’s be compared with one in 2024?

Also, the challenges faced in managing a school would be different.

However, the objectives of inter-house sports competition then and now have not changed.

Some of which are learning important life skills like discipline, leadership, team spirit, fostering a sense of unity etc.

The value of sports for health, wellbeing, team spirit, scholarship opportunities, fostering unity, sense of purpose should not be overlooked.

Since what is worth doing, is worth doing well, efforts should be made for the sports day to be taken more seriously.

I believe that there are many proprietors and teachers that are alumni of unity schools.

I wonder if their recollections are similar to mine.

Schools should reach out to parents who have expertise in certain sporting activities.

Not just for sports day but more importantly for the invaluable life skills that can be learned.


Written by Guest Writer