Junior High Sports Festival

In my first week of teaching I encounter the famed Sports Festival found in slice of life anime. Anime tends to highlight the sports and culture festivals in high school because the classes tend to compete against each and there is more variety and independence in events and activities. Please take all of this with a grain of salt, every school is different.

There are a two things that hold true:

  1. Everyone participates
    1. This is a school wide event and not optional. It doesn’t matter if its multi-year teams or each class completes individually. Every student and teacher participates or helps out in some way or form. If you are injured you are tallying scores or manning the microphone as an announcer.
  2. There will be tears
    1. The students put a lot of time and effort into these festivals. Almost every student came to school during summer break to practice and prepare for this one day event. When the points are tallied the losing team and their captains will probably cry at the award ceremony.

At one of my junior highs the students were split into two teams:

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Not my photo – Great show though

{Sorry I couldn’t help myself}

Both teams were a mix of 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students and their homeroom teachers. Each team painted a giant banner with their mascot – Red had a fiery phoenix and Blue had an fierce wolf. Each poster was pinned on the hill behind the team camps and field.

The day is spent out doors – rain or shine – competing in different events. As I mentioned before participation is mandatory so all of the students are running the races with different heats – boys against boys and girls against girls.

Events included:

  • 100 meters
  • 500 meters
  • Relay – sports teams
  • Obstacle course
  • Tug-a-War
  • Cultural Dance
  • Cheerleading

What was your favorite event?

It is a tie between the Tug-a-War and the cheerleading. The Tug-a-War was fun because both teams faced off against each other with their homeroom teachers yells and cheering for them. After a team lost two times in a row the losing team got to go in to the crowd of families and pick a replacement. Fathers, mothers, siblings, and grandparents faced the winners (in my case the blue team). The blue team put up a good fight but lost in the end.

The cheerleading was amazing. It is not like american cheerleading where they yell out encouragement during the events. Instead they perform/compete in a half-time show. The teams are dressed in black male uniforms, barefoot and wearing strips of long colored cloth tied around their shoulders and heads. The team captains are dressed in hakama pants with a long haori jacket in their team color. Each team has a huge flag and a drummer. The captain opens and ends the routine with a splits to get the lowest bow possible.

The routines are spectacular. The teams are so synchronized it is hard to believe they are junior high students. The students work together to create rippling movements and illusions. It is fun to watch and is a serious event. It was entertaining listening to the parents make comments throughout the performance.

Is there an equivalent sports festival in the United States?

As far as I know  – no. There are events like it but nothing quite on the same scale. I found that a Japanese Sports Festival combines the festive spirit of an American Homecoming pep rally and the mandatory athleticism and chaos of a Track and Field Day in elementary school. Let me know in the comments if your school/state/country has something similar!

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