Team sports don’t suit everyone – some pupils flourish competing alone. We speak to schools about their solo sports offerings.
Rebecca Jutson, Assistant Director of Girls’ Sport
With a greater number of students in the school we are now providing a broader range of sporting opportunities, and the uptake for more individual sports has increased. We now have a wide range of activities on offer including tennis, athletics, swimming, golf, sailing, climbing, kayaking, aerobics, triathlon, cross-country, archery, gymnastics, squash, fencing, show jumping and skiing.
Students who don’t wish to get involved with team games derive a great deal of confidence from performing in more individual activities. Hurst focuses on the development of the individual, whether that be through team sports or individual sports. Our responsibility is to find activities which suit the needs of the student rather than those of the school.
Sport is compulsory and everyone is expected to involve themselves, whether that be at participation or performance level. To a degree the sport is irrelevant, it is more a belief that the sporting environment is there to provide youngsters with the opportunity to develop personal and interpersonal skills which will benefit them in later life.
It is also there to provide them with a physical release from their studies and encourage them to lead healthy, active lifestyles. The skills and qualities they derive from participation in sporting activities are certainly more important than the outcome of a particular match or the achievement of a result. Within this culture and central to our students’ development is the promotion of personal confidence.
Felix Warren, Year 9, Climber
“I have been climbing for five years now – since I was nine. I always used to climb trees and when our local climbing centre opened I gave it a try and got really into it. I love it because there are so many challenges and when you complete something you have been working at for a while, there is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.”
Tallulah Sullivan, Year 9, Triathlete
“I have been competing in Triathlon since I was around eight or nine years old. Before I was injured I came third in the South East of England for TS1 girls and I also have a few other trophies for achieving a top three position. I have always been a strong runner and I thought it would be a good opportunity to compete in a sport that could stretch me in aspects that running alone couldn’t. I like that it pushes me to work hard and train hard and it gives me adrenaline.”
Jamie Briggs, Year 11, Fencer
“I first started just after my 7th birthday and, because of my age, I had to use foam swords. A year later I was able to progress to the proper thing and took part in my first competition in March 2012. I have been on the U13, U15 and U17 England squads and last year I was invited to be a part of the GB U17 squad. It has been amazing to be able to represent my country in a sport that I love.”
Joe Sullivan, Year 12, Golfer
“I started playing when I was four and my best achievement to date is playing for the England U16 squad last year for the first time. My dad introduced me to the game and I really enjoyed it. From playing golf I have learned that I have a good temperament and I am able to bounce back after a bad run. I think overall I have become slightly more confident over the last couple of years.”
Hurst College, Hassocks, West Sussex
01273 833636 hppc.co.uk
Sutton Valence School, Maidstone, Kent
Sutton Valence School believes that all pupils can be successful in sport and, with a strong sporting tradition, we offer every child the opportunity to develop their fitness and love of exercise which will support them throughout their life.
Under the care of the Director of Sport, Mark Howell students flourish across a huge breadth of sporting disciplines. Alongside the major sports (rugby, hockey, netball, tennis and cricket) the school supports sportsmen and women excelling in individual sports. These include gymnasts, equestrian riders, runners, dancers, skiers, sailors, martial artists and fencing champions.
The sporting provision at the school has been developed to work with the broad range of needs of these sports. Working with the strength and conditioning coaches, pupils optimise their core skills of speed, power and agility, giving them a competitive edge.
The sports department provides bespoke training programmes for the students in the Talented Athlete Programme and, at the elite level, they work with their coaches to provide the best complementary support. Students are also invited to lectures on nutrition, sports psychology and more to ensure they receive a professional insight into the world of sport that will allow them to reach the next level of their own personal development.
Elizabeth Fraser, Fencing Champion
“My favourite thing about fencing is the tactics and mental strength it takes to win a fight. I have learnt a lot about myself through fencing – particularly my ability to bounce back. In the last two years I have suffered from two injuries, but I didn’t let this hold me back. I trained hard to get back and now I am able to compete again.”
Sutton Valence School, Maidstone, Kent
01622 845200 svs.org.uk
Antonia Beary, Headmistress at Mayfield School, shares her school sport philosophy – and her own experiences
Teachers from my own schooldays might be rather sceptical at my writing an article on the benefits of sport, and rightly so, as any recollections of my youthful endeavours to avoid cross country or the 1500 metres (I think I was the only person in my year not to do it) would elicit, at best, amusement. However, even the most recalcitrant child can surprise themselves and others.
Sport teaches us all, not just our children, skills and helps discover abilities which can prove invaluable as life skills. Playing as a team requires not only working together, but thinking about other people and understanding their strengths and weaknesses.
Good team players will be able to see themselves contributing to something bigger, as they have to look beyond their own individual goals to the shared, common good.
Representing our school, county or even country, requires working towards an altruistic goal, espousing what may seem old-fashioned values, which are increasingly at odds with those of the self-centred society in which we seem to live. For teenagers to appreciate both that it is not just ‘all about them’ but also that they have something valuable to contribute, promotes a balanced sense of self-esteem.
Practice, as we know, makes perfect. In a world where there is a disproportionate focus on individuals plucked out of obscurity allegedly to fame and fortune, sport offers an excellent lesson: while natural ability may be an advantage, it is nothing without consistent effort and application – whatever the weather.
With our increasing dependence on mobile phones allowing the best-laid plans to be changed at the last minute, understanding the concept of commitment to a match or practice is important. It doesn’t matter if you have a better offer – you have a responsibility to your team. In making sacrifices, so character is built and captaining a team can lead on to more significant leadership roles and the responsibility being a role model entails.
Learning how to win and – more importantly – how to lose, graciously are skills which should not be underrated. Sport provides an arena where it is almost impossible not to make mistakes, offering opportunities to learn how to cope when, inevitably, things do not go to plan. Learning to roll with the punches – literal and metaphorical – is a vital skill.
At the same time, having to conform to a set of rules is no bad thing for a child, whilst fair play and respect for the umpire’s decision needs to be learnt and can’t necessarily be assumed. Sport should help instil in our young people the fundamental value of integrity.
Computer games may offer a certain type of stimulation but there is nothing to beat fresh air and physical activity for real wellbeing. Regular physical activity also means that you can get away with spoiling yourself with a food treat every now and then.
Sport also provides a vital outlet for pent-up tension – as I discovered when I worked in a boys’ school, one harsh winter when I had to teach classes unable to play sport due to frozen pitches. Expending energy on the playing field, means that you can focus effectively on your academic study.
Equally, the skills of concentration, focus and determination are easily transferrable and success in a match can boost confidence and instil a self-belief which in turn allows you to approach a challenging maths problem or a philosophical conundrum with more conviction.
There is a reason why we ‘play’ sport – it has to be about having fun. For some, that pleasure will come from being intensely competitive, for others simply in being part of something bigger than themselves and spending time with their friends.
And the joy of sport is that there is something for everyone. For the record: the girl who, aged 13, tried to arrange her music lessons in PE, in a few short years found herself representing Cambridge University in the Boat Race. Who says miracles don’t happen?
Mayfield School, Mayfield, East Sussex
01435 874600 www.mayfieldgirls.org
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