Sports Day

If you’ve ever worked in a Thai school, you’ve probably encountered the phenomenon (and extensive preparations leading up to) Sports Day. Sports Day is like field day, only it happens during the year. It’s basically an opportunity for the students to get dressed up and compete in teams in a multitude of strange and exciting athletic competitions (and some not so athletic…). In this blog post I’ll tell you all about how Sports Day works at our school and give you some insight into this exciting school event.

Sports Day Celebrations at Wat Ben
Sports Day Celebrations at Wat Ben

1. The preparations

The most striking thing about Sports Day is the bustling preparation and excitement leading up to it. For literally weeks, our students practiced drum solos and routines for the opening ceremony. Bright banners and posters were being made in the hallways, students were missing class left and right, and the ladyboy students kept doing dress rehearsals of outrageous makeup and costumes. Sports Day was a colorful, musical, and exciting event, and preparation was very important for setting that vibe.

Ajarn Surappol (our head teacher) posing with the trophies
Ajarn Surappol (our head teacher) posing with the trophies

2. The Day of Sports

When the day actually arrived, we had no idea it was basically a holiday (it’s not unusual for us to be left out of the loop). All classes were cancelled and the courtyard was cleared, with huge tents erected over sets of bleachers left in its place. Tables were set up with tasty snacks and drinks and a teachers’ viewing area was set up next to the stage. On the actual stage was a table loaded with prizes and trophies (most of the prizes were a book – English Phrasal Verbs). Let the games begin!

One of our ladyboy students let me take a photo of her face paint later in the day
One of our ladyboy students let me take a photo of her face paint later in the day – she looked awesome

3. The Opening Ceremony

Having received a flat tire on the way to school, I didn’t get to see the initial parade to open Sports Day, but luckily the students went through the temple grounds and winded their way back in which meant I got to catch the end of it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The students were all dressed up in themes, the teachers were all wearing matching shirts, and the older students were dressed in lavish costumes (with the ladyboys really stealing the show, totally decked out). The makeup was amazing and the students were loving it, some dancing and performing routines. 

The Orange Team, with one of my favorite students, Tung, facing the camera
The Orange Team, with one of my favorite students, Tung, facing the camera

4. The Drum Solos

There are four teams on Sports Day, each team represented by a color. Each colored team also picked a theme. For example, the green team was something along the lines of ‘Under the Sea’ and the red team was ‘Dragons’ (I couldn’t figure out the other team names). The first competition of the day was for each team to play the school song through an interpretive drum solo while the rest of the students waved flags, choreographed color movements, or danced. I have to say, the team with all the ladyboys took the prize. They had a very suggestive, choreographed dance in the middle of the courtyard while the students waved colored pieces of paper in time with the drums. Very exciting.

Stilt-walking (way harder than it looks)
Stilt-walking (way harder than it looks)

5. The (not so) Athletic Portion

Okay, the games were pretty hilarious. Most of them were really random. It started with some great Muay Thai competitions, like who could kick the highest, but quickly degenerated into stilt-walking competitions, arm-wrestling, tug-of-war, musical chairs, all the way to cake-eating. They were absolutely hilarious to watch, for both the teachers and participating students. The teams had so much fun cheering on their teammates, dancing, drumming to increase the tension, and enjoying the camaraderie. Level 6 students coached the level 1’s as they struggled to walk with the stilts and clapped their backs supportively when they got destroyed by the competition. It was great to see and everyone had a great time. I have no idea if any of the teams won the overall competition, but students walked away with trophies, books, snacks and treats. Here are some more of the games photos for your enjoyment:

No idea why this student had a horse head
No idea why this student had a horse head
Arm wrestling tournament
Arm wrestling tournament
Student wearing a crab head?
Student wearing a crab head?
Muay Thai kicking competition
Muay Thai kicking competition

All in all, the games were a lot of fun for everyone involved, and I can see why it’s a school tradition. To any teachers who haven’t yet experience Sports Day, when the time comes, ask to be involved. Ask for a team, a T-shirt, a hat, whatever the Thai teachers get. My only regret was not being more involved in the fun!

Have you been a part of Sports Day before? What kinds of games did you students play? What was your opening ceremony like? I’d love to hear about other peoples’ experiences in the comment below!

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One thought on “Sports Day”

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