Save Us From Field Day!

I absolutely despised field days during my school years. Allowing them to be optional could potentially spare children, just like myself, from experiencing overwhelming anxiety and enduring unnecessary emotional distress.

Making field days voluntary could alleviate anxiety and trauma for kids like me.

Photo of a group of young girls standing in a line wearing white t-shirts that say,
The writer hated field day so much she wasn’t even in the photo.

Courtesy of India Kushner

In middle school, I dreaded field day and gym class. It was a nightmare! I felt constantly humiliated and judged by my classmates. And guess what? I’m not alone in this! During a recent team meeting at work, my colleague Frank Olito confessed that field day was anxiety-inducing for him too. We both agreed: field day should be a voluntary activity.

Let’s rewind to my middle school days. Oh, the horror! I can still vividly remember playing volleyball, scared out of my mind as the ball flew towards me. I would reluctantly extend my arms, praying to the heavens above that I wouldn’t accidentally hit myself in the face. Spoiler alert: my technique was more about self-preservation than actual participation. I basically used my arms as a personal shield. What can I say? I’ve never been the athletic type.

But the pinnacle of my middle school nightmare was field day. Canceling this event would have saved kids like me from a lot of anxiety and trauma. Hear me out: what if field day became a voluntary activity? It would be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Those who enjoy it can sign up, and the rest of us can find something else to do. No more forced participation!

Now, let’s talk about why field days were humiliating for awkward kids like us. Picture this: colorful teams assigned to different activities like relay races, three-legged races, and tug-of-war. Sounds fun, right? Well, not for those of us who lacked any semblance of hand-eye coordination. It was a day of pure misery.

Participating in these activities meant revealing our lack of skills to the entire class, at a time when we just wanted to blend into the background. As a preteen, I was a walking disaster, always saying the wrong thing and constantly tripping over my own feet. Tying my leg to the popular girl’s leg for a three-legged race was a recipe for disaster. I would trip, the popular girl would fall, and I would become the main attraction for all the wrong reasons. The embarrassment was unbearable, and the pressure to perform was overwhelming. Failing meant letting the team down and enduring the stares and dirty looks of my classmates for the rest of the day.

But wait, there’s more! Even in high school, gym class remained a nightmare. I remember a particularly traumatizing dodgeball game where a classmate threw the ball so hard that it bounced off the opposite wall of the gym. Terrifying, isn’t it? And let’s not forget the annual race right after lunch, resulting in some unfortunate classmates throwing up mid-run. One class dedicated to sports was already too much for me. Why subject kids to an entire day of traumatic activities?

Instead, let’s offer alternatives such as yoga classes or other activities that simply get kids moving without pitting them against each other. Let the kids who want to play sign up for field day, while others participate in something they genuinely enjoy. It’s time to save a new generation from the trauma of middle school field days.

Remember, no more tears! Let’s reimagine field day and make it an inclusive, joyful experience for all.