When I was in high school (long, long ago), we played the same four sports every year in gym class - soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball - with a bit of badminton and (urk!) dodgeball thrown in for variety. Not being the most athletically-inclined duck out there, I tended to loathe gym class. But volleyball in particular holds a special place in my heart - I hated it so much, I was actually thrilled to see spring roll around, when we were sent outside in the damp spring chill to play softball. At least with softball, you can stand in the outfield and know that you're fairly safe from the wrath of most balls (at least, you are if I'm at bat).* With each volleyball class, on the other hand, it was a down-and-dirty competition between my best friend and I to see whose arms more closely resembled a lobster post-game; aka, who was worse.
So, a few weeks ago, when I was asked whether I wanted to join the teachers' volleyball team, I breached Japanese protocol and laughed. Long and heartily. Then, having regained my composure, in a mix of Japanese and English (it was a non-English teacher who asked me), I made it perfectly clear : "Juri - baréboru - damé, damé - watashi wa ... very, very bad." (I'll be bilingual in no time, I'm sure.)
Whew. Having dodged that bullet, I went back to my less-than-spectacular life. Then last week, chatting with one of the English teachers after teaching a class with her, I speculated that perhaps her students - who were normally quiet but that day had been somewhat rowdy - were looking forward to the sports day that we were having the next day. Yes, she replies, and then says something about volleyball.
Uh. Yes, I heard right. Sports day is actually going to be volleyball. All day. Oh, crap.
We had a sports day back in early September, and it was so much fun. My memories of "sports day" from my high school days (we called it "field day") is a mish-mash of track-and-field events (relay races, javelin-throwing, and a game of basketball or two), a day in which most students sloughed around trying to figure out how to avoid the high jump or ring toss. Not so these kids, and not so this past sports day. They had been split into 4 teams (of about 250 kids each, mind you; almost as big as my entire high school!) and had spent the better part of the previous week under the tutelage of the student cheerleader teams, learning chants and cheers for the pep rallies that would form part of the sports day (practicing one to two hours a day). They played capture-the-flag, giant games of tug of war, "windsurfing", and much more, with just a bit of relay racing in the late afternoon. And lots of cheerleading, of course.
The always-popular "Piggyback Fights".
But volleyball all day? Ugh. In addition to my general dislike of volleyball, Randal had had to endure a sports day last fall that was entirely volleyball, and he was not pleased to report back that it was B-O-R-I-N-G. I wasn't therefore looking forward to it; however, I figured I was willing to watch. Really, I mean, it's not like I had any choice.
Well. Who knew volleyball could be so much fun?
I forgot that when my school does something like this, they tend to go all out. Here, second- and third-year students had decked out their gym uniforms with various themes. It was hilarious just to walk around all day and see what I could find.
As for the volleyball itself, there were something like 40 games going on at any one time (until the elimination rounds started in the afternoon), so there was always something to watch.
See the entire set here.
*Honestly, it's a miracle I ever passed gym class and was allowed to graduate.