Seven SMS students are participating in a student exchange program with Eiwa School in Shizouka, Japan. Below, some of the students share observations and reflections about their experience participating in the School's Sports Day Festival.
I am sitting in the audience at the Shizuoka sports arena and I can feel the excitement in the air. The students are cheering, jumping and shouting all around me! This is a bit of a challenge for my eardrums, but rather than complain, I allow their emotion to influence me. I stand up and I see the players run towards the finish line. One girl wins and she is smiling; many others lose and they are tearing up while their mothers hug them. Their emotion is contagious; I want to cry with them. I feel the tears rise up, but I work hard to restrain them. Their experience is familiar to me. When I was in elementary school, in China, we also treated sports day as a serious competition. Being here today helps me to remember the intensity of competition.
Being a part of the Sports Festival made me feel like I was at the Olympics. In the opening ceremonies all the students marched into the stadium behind their team flags (the Canadian girls were included too) and then all 500 of us performed a dance. It was an amazing feeling to be part of something that enormous. During each of the events, the Eiwa girls were so enthusiastic and energetic; it became so loud in the stadium that you could hardly hear yourself think. Basically there are three levels of encouragement at a sports event: cheering, yelling and screaming your head off. The last of the three would be what almost everyone in the stadium was doing - at all times. I wouldn’t be surprised if most audience members didn’t have their voices the next day. The atmosphere was electric; you could feel the energy surging through the air. I have never experienced anything like this before. This celebration of sports was a lot of fun and I would love for SMS to start one that is similar.
If you think sports day is competitive at SMS, then participating in Shizuoka Eiwa School’s sports festival would be quite a shock. Every single student trains hard to try to become the best at whichever event they are competing in. The whole day is one huge tournament. My favorite part of the day was watching all of the different cheers each grade did. On the first day of school we were also asked to participate by creating a cheer and although we made a few mistakes in our routine it was still really fun to do. It was amazing to see everyone trying so hard at one thing and showing some amazing sportsmanship.
There is a gigantic difference between Canadian and Japanese schools. No, it’s not the schedules, the classes or even the language. The major difference is the PE program. Every time we have PE in Japan we are surprised by the strength and endurance the Japanese students possess within their little bodies. The class starts with stretching and marching, followed by an aerobic workout, which is choreographed to the song ‘Pretty Girl’. The actual sports that we practice are jump rope and relays. There are two types of relays: the baton-passing relay and the many-legged relay. Each of these were events during the sports day. In addition, there was an event called ‘Rabbits Running Over Stones’, where each class lined up and leaned down so that one of the students could run across their backs all the way to the other end of the gym. My favorite part of the Shizuoka Eiwa sports day was the dancing done by the rhythmic gymnastics club. They had long ribbons with the pattern of a corral snake on them and a white silk parachute that they made to look like a jellyfish. Overall, I would say that the differences made me think about how hard work and training pays off and how fun it can be to have a bit of healthy competition.