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Sports days, sometimes referred to as field days, are events staged by many schools and offices in which people take part in competitive sporting activities, often with the aim of winning trophies or prizes. Though they are often held at the beginning of summer, they are also staged in the autumn or spring seasons, especially in countries where the summer is very harsh. Schools stage many sports days in which children participate in the sporting events. It is usually held in elementary schools, or grades Kindergarten-8th Grade. In schools which use a house system a feature of the school is the competition between the houses; this is especially brought out during sporting events such as an inter-house sports day.
Games that are played on school sports days can be wide and varied. They can include straightforward sprints and longer races for all age groups as well as egg and spoon races. Three legged races are run as well as sack races and parent and child races.
Additional games are traditionally run in Ireland and the UK, such as wheel barrow races and games such as horse shoe throwing.
There have been a number of controversies surrounding school sports days in recent years, many of which have been publicised by the media.
Some schools have abolished or heavily altered sports days on the grounds that they are too competitive and may damage pupils' self esteem - this often reflects the schools' attitude towards competitive sports or competitiveness in general. This view has been condemned as "political correctness" by many commentators, notably by journalist Melanie Phillips in her 1996 book All Must Have Prizes.
In June 2005, Country Life magazine published a report claiming that school sports days have become excessively competitive due to overbearing and "over-zealous" parents, who place too much pressure on their children to succeed. The report also revealed that many schools have banned "mothers and fathers" races due to fighting and cheating.
Since the mid-1990s, a number of schools and education authorities have banned photography and filming with video cameras at sports days and other school events. Some authorities cite general privacy issues as justification for the ban; others have raised concerns about pedophiles, which in turn has sparked accusations of hysteria and moral panic. Many parents have expressed anger at being unable to take photographs or videos as souvenirs of these events, and the ban has been criticised by some as a paranoid over-reaction to public concerns about pedophilia and child safety issues.
Sports day, called undōkai (運動会) in Japanese, is usually held on a Saturday or Sunday in Japanese schools. During weeks preceding the sports day, students practice their events which they would like to show their parents and friends, within their class of physical education, which often includes tamaire, performances by the school band and presentations by various school clubs as well as individual and group competitive events. These practices, and the sports days themselves, normally take place on the schools' fields, which provide little relief from the heat and sun.
Some schools have responded by scheduling their sports days during cooler months and by encouraging their students to drink water regularly. Currently, the event occurs most often in the autumn (September/October), or in the spring (May/June). In primary schools in Hokkaidō, the event is usually held between the later part of May and the earlier part of June.
In India, sports days are held for two-three days. These include: football-like games, cricket, throwball, dodgeball, volleyball, running, relays, shotput, javelin throw, etc. These sports days are held between the various houses in a particular school. In India many traditional games such as Kho-Kho and Kabaddi are played.
Many large organizations have sports days for their employees, one notable example is the UK Her Majesty's Civil Service which holds a number of departmental sports days.