Sports Day at Yeongdo!

My school’s sports day was held the first week of May (so I had to get this post out at least before the end of the month). Maybe I’ve fallen into a routine after having experienced two sports days, but I struggled to think of what to say about this time.

Nonetheless, I was still just as excited to attend (a break from classes!) and see how sports day went at a different school. Upon arriving I was surprised by tents around the perimeter of the school’s field. This was already different (fancy!).

I anticipated that like the school festival, teachers would come and go throughout the day. But most teachers headed out for the opening ceremony and speech to kick off the event. Before starting though, students stretched and did jumping jacks to warm up.

sports day warmup

One of the most interesting parts of sports day is seeing each class’s “ban tee,” or class T-shirt for the event. But these are rarely just T-shirts. Homeroom classes each plan their outfit for the day in a show of school (and class) spirit. There are always a few standout classes, but this sports day had by far the best ban tee I’ve ever seen.

No Face from the Hayao Miyazaki film Spirited Away! Or, as I soon learned, “Gayonashi” in Korean. The entire class wore long black robes and No Face masks. Of course, for most of the events they had to remove their masks, it was an ingenious idea. And they looked pretty hilarious during the cheerleading competition.

The classes that caught my eye next were the ones wear hanboks (traditional Korean dresses). I always question the logic in wearing a hanbok for sports day, but students have varied priorities. There was also a lot of makeup this day and of course, corresponding selfies.

This year, there were actually TWO classes that wore hanboks! One class chose bright pink while the other opted for a more subtle navy that looked a little modernized. Of course, the hanboks made sports a little more complicated, as in this chaotic scene featuring a variation of jump-rope.

gradual jumprope

The last standout ban tee in my book was the taekwondo uniform, with their black belts all borrowed from friends, relatives, and the sports high school across the street. One student in the class wore her own black belt (wearing the 2-8 sign below). This picture, also featuring the pink hanbok, is a dodgeball match between the dodgeball class and the pink hanbok class. A pretty hilarious line-up.

dodgeball hanbok vs tkd

The pink hanboks won.

Of course, sports day isn’t just about outfits. Events included dodgeball, class jump rope, tug o’ war, a cheerleading competition, a scary but impressive event where students run on each other’s backs, and a relay race. (Later, some teachers complained that there was no soccer, basketball, or anything of that sort. Such is the nature of an all-girls school, I guess.)

Dodgeball was the most serious of the events, with a tournament-style set up within each grade. Korean dodgeball is played a little differently than what I’m used to in America. Each team started out with about half of their class on the court and half spread out along the borders of the opposing team’s court. Team members in the court can toss the ball to teammates outside the bounds and they can try to hit a member of the opposing team from there. So the ball can come at you from any direction. My first experience with this version was during at teacher sports night at Gimhae…and the terrifying vice principal, who was otherwise a small, unassuming ajhumma.

Tug o’ war was the next most serious event, also tournament style. The pictures speak for themselves.

tug o wartug o war pink

The cheerleading competition was also a big event, judged by teachers (but not me). There are the first graders – who did their routines to Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” making me feel like I was back in high school too. How considerate of them.

first grade cheerleading

Here are the second graders up close. Note the No Face and hanbok teams.


second grade cheerleading close

And here they are from afar (my office on the fourth floor). In some ways it was more fun to watch from up high.

second grade cheerleading

And finally, third grade. (Did you notice the ocean view back there?)

third grade cheerleading

But I was most excited about the run-on-your-classmates-back event that I’d heard about from other ETAs. I couldn’t believe that students could actually pull it off.

The running-on-your-classmates’-backs event was a competition between three classes at time. One student – the lightest in the class – was supported by one student on each side. They held each of her hands and made sure she didn’t fall during the race. The rest of the class bent at the waist and formed a path WITH THEIR BACKS. As the light student runs across her classmates, “path students” must run back to the front of the line to continue making a path. If they’re too slow, the light student runs out of path to run on (and I imagine it’s painful for whoever she’s stuck standing on). So everyone has to keep moving. It’s hard to explain without seeing it, so…

Here are the students preparing:

running on backs

And the race! (I wasn’t allowed to get too close, so you can’t really tell what’s going on, but hopefully you get the gist.)


Overall it was an enjoyable light-hearted day, where I got to see another side to my students outside of the classroom. Another sports day – and sadly my last one – in the bag.

Check out my other sports day posts here:

Fall Sports Day at Gimhae

Spring Sports Day at Gimhae


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