Sports Day for dummies

Sports Day requires one to conserve their energy and unleash the competitive spirit.

Meiryum Ali February 18, 2011

Stage 1: Identifying that it is Sports Day

Notice perspiring students in the corridors and water bottles tanked and ready to go? Badges and T-shirts being passed out? A whole new array of running shoes? Welcome to sports fever. It hits two weeks to two months before the big day, so you had better not forget. Failing to understand the importance of Sports Day makes you a stain on your otherwise perfect class’s reputation, a piece of vermin to be immediately squelched underfoot.

Alternately, if you are an athlete and know someone who shows no interest in sports, you either a) sever all ties of friendship and disown him/her or, b) buy him/her a pair of white Bata canvas shoes out of the deep kindness of your heart and start training the poor fool for the biggest day of their life.

Stage 2: Identifying your house

In a bid to foster a sense of competition, schools always like to divide students by colour- or name-coded groups. The house or team could be Red or Yellow, have a motto (Integrity or Leadership) or go by a name (Faiz, Iqbal, Qasim). Ferret out your house captain and immediately swear allegiance. If you can manage to win over their protective shield, or develop a first-name basis familiarity, you are guaranteed instant entry into the world of the seniors (and by association, the world itself).

Stage 3: Identifying the enemy

One house message got through to me via cell phone. I felt as if it was less a motivational message to a high school athlete than an address at Panu Aqil to Artillery foot soldiers by COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani:

“All right soldiers, you say you want to win the war but everything you’re doing suggests otherwise… I’m ashamed at your lack of participation and laziness. Do we want India to crush everything we’ve worked for? Have to see their flag on what’s ours? No! We are going to win this war and show everybody what it means to be Pakistani! Battle drill tomorrow morning! Pakistan Zindabad!”

And the obligatory PS: Asad is organising halwa puri and chai for breakfast.

Stage 4: Channeling the inner sports fiend

Here’s the deal: when there’s sports practice, you have to play. Never mind if the javelin nearly decapitates the sports teacher, or if you drop the discus on your foot, or if your long jump turns out to be a long skip. You will participate in every event because that is what is required of you. Sports Day is the only event that has the capacity to resurrect school spirit which then infuses all things school. “You didn’t make posters! Where’s your school spirit?” and “Show some love for the house, dude.” Sports Day is a sensitive period for many, and one wrong word can have you ostracised. And, no matter what you do, never laugh.

I turned a corner to find a friend wrapped up candy-like in great swaths of cloth, only her nose visible from under her dupatta. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor and alternately taking deep breaths and then great swigs from a water bottle.

“Um, what’re you doing?”

“I’m conserving my energy for today’s discus event.”

I almost laughed, as Rocky and his glasses of raw egg had surfaced from my memory. I decided not to comment.

All of this means athlete or no athlete, you will be there on the final day. Check your shoe laces and iron your shirt. Don’t forget your war paint. Importantly, pack a water bottle - you’re going to need it for all the screaming you’ll be doing, even as a non-competitor. Because when that pistol goes off, you’ll be off too.

Meiryum Ali A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.