Some thoughts on school sport…

The sports testing ground is larger than a chessboard or a bridge table. It involves the whole person, not only her mind and ego, but also her muscles, bones, blood, nerves, blood vessels, heart, endocrine glands, liver, lungs, digestive tract, and every fiber of her being. But this testing ground is still smaller than life itself. It is a segment of life, circumscribed by rules within a limited space for a limited time.” Eleanor Metheny

 

Context

The context between each school that tries to provide school sport will always different. The gap in provision between the biggest and well resourced independent school whose sports budget runs into the millions to the smallest and underfunded state school who relies on the good will of volunteers is often vast. However, no matter what the context of the school, the challenge to provide a coherent and clear educative vision of school sport that the whole community can buy into and care about is shared and is shared by every school that wishes to provide the experience of school sport to its pupils.

 

Coherent and Clear Vision

Sport is an empty vessel’– John Amaechi

Therefore what the custodians of sport use it for and put into it is essential for a positive experience. School Sport can only be educative and meaningful if its purpose, delivery and outcomes are made explicit through a shared vision that is understood and supported by all. No matter what context the school, school sport must have a clear vision that is aligned to the wider purpose of education and more specifically the school’s role within that purpose. Otherwise misuse and misalignment will occur, leading to children serving the interest of the school and the sport rather than the other way round. To ensure alignment we need to connect the whole school community together, to co-create a coherent and clear vision of school sport and then consistently communicate this at every level. Ultimately if school sport is to serve and educate the school community then care of purpose, people and provision is needed.

 

Connect

Those who lead the school have an important role to play in connecting the children, the parents, the staff and other significant bodies and agencies that have a voice within the school. They need to bring people together to have dialogue and debate about a vision of sport and its role within the school, even if it is uncomfortable. Without connecting people to engage in discussion about a coherent and clear purpose of school sport, school sport can never fulfil the powerful potential for good it has. Providing sport in and of itself is not enough as that doesn’t guarantee a meaningful and positive experience for all involved.

 

Co-create/Collaborate

For any vision to truly be embraced by the community, it must be co-created by the community. Leadership must create time and space for people to explore and build a vision of school sport. It must be a priority as the vision shapes decisions, both strategic and operational in the short term and the long term. A vision of school sport that is co-created by the school community provides everybody involved with an image of what the school sport experience should and ought to offer. This shared vision then gives a sense of purpose, direction and momentum. It can act as a guide and measure of practice with all parties being responsible and supporting each other to deliver on that vision. Everyone needs to be able to describe the vision as it provides a direction for travel for school sport and the experience it provides for the school community.

 

Communicate

Once the leadership have connected people together and allowed them to co-create a coherent and clear vision of school sport, they then must communicate that vision, through the purpose and the principles of provision on a daily basis, through every possible format. The school must communicate to children, parents, teachers, coaches and other significant bodies through assemblies, social media, marketing and other forms of communication the school engages in. At the heart of that communication is the need for the school community to tell their stories of their experience of school sport; stories of the good to celebrate and use as role models and stories of the bad to investigate and use as a catalyst for change and continual improvement. Every day the school must build a narrative of what school sport can do for the whole school community, equally celebrating the successes of high-level performance along with the successes of individuals who find personal development and meaning in movement.

 

Continual Care

For school sport to make a difference to the lives of the children, the whole school community must take care of it. The provision of sport in a school context is not enough. All individuals within the school must care about the school sport experience. Everyone must keep asking themselves – what is the vision of school sport we have created? How do we go about caring to ensure the experiences align with that vision? Leadership must ask themselves on a daily basis how they can better care for the school sport experience as a truly educative experience of sport cannot be left to chance. Providing a vision is a start, but not enough. Success is in the details and the daily interactions. They must continue to ask how they can care for the children’s, teacher’s, coaches, parent’s and significant others involvement in school sport and how can they get those groups to take mutual responsibility for caring about the experience of all involved. By asking these questions, asking people to share their stories, being attentive to what emerges and being both proactive and responsive a school can create a positive experience of school sport that the whole school community and perhaps wider can benefit from.

 

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