I’m not a naturally sporty person. I enjoy a bit of tennis or badminton but generally, I run a bit like Phoebe in that episode of Friends and was used to getting ‘excellent’ in effort on my PE reports with a considerably lower grade for attainment. You might think that from my personal experience, I wouldn’t be a supporter of sport in schools, but you’d be wrong.
I think Sport breathes life into a school. In 2020 the Senior Leadership Team made a decision to revamp our Sport’s provision at Wandsworth Prep, giving it the status, experienced leader and the facilities that it deserved. We have been lucky to have an extremely experienced Head of Sport join our team, along with coaches and teachers that have a genuine passion for sport.
As you can imagine, it was somewhat frustrating to be hit by the pandemic in the very year we had determined to make this our focus. We made it our business to follow the effect of the pandemic on the children; Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of Sport England commented: ‘Yet, while we are pleased to see the increase in more informal activities such as walking and cycling, which were possible during the periods of restriction, we can’t underestimate the long-term effect on other sporting activities both in and out of school
Developing children and young people’s physical literacy is essential in creating a positive and lifelong relationship with activity and without it many will not enjoy the health and social benefits associated with living active lives. Schools play a vital role in keeping young people active.’
As soon as our school and facilities re-opened, we considered it our duty to build up the children’s stamina and physical literacy. It was so encouraging to see the children at our Fun Run in January, not only raising money for our local charities, but completing more circuits of the track than ever before.
Regular fixtures with other schools give a purpose and focus for building those all important collaborative team skills and practical experience of sportsmanship. It’s easy to ‘talk the talk’ about how you behave when you win or lose but it’s no substitute for being in the moment and applying those skills to difficult situations.
This week we’ve had a ‘moment’.
We are a small school and our Head of Sport, David Morgan, made the decision that for us to compete competitively, we should limit the number of sports that we offer and concentrate wholly on the quality achieved in those areas. David decided that all children should compete in all fixtures against other schools giving every child the experience of team competition.
Occasionally, for regional and national competitions, we can only field one squad and unlike larger schools, we don’t have a large limitless pool of children to choose from. This makes what I’m about to say even more remarkable. Our squad of 7 boys competed in the Under 11s ISA regional football tournament on Wednesday and, against all the odds, have qualified for the Nationals, held next month at St George’s Park!
I was very lucky to have all of the football team to my office yesterday for a celebratory morning snack. I asked each child to tell me how they contributed and what they were proud of. Instead of talking about themselves, each one spent their precious moment telling me how each of the other players had impressed them and how they contributed to the win. I must admit, I felt quite emotional after they left. This level of collaboration was outstanding and this was the direct positive result of sport building their character.
I must congratulate David and his team for the values they have instilled in the children and how heartened I was to see true collaboration in practice. We constantly hear about children’s selfish or apathetic attitudes in the media but I disagree. Just get out onto the football, rugby, hockey fields and athletic tracks and see young people shine.
So what has sport ever done for us? Everything!