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Sport has long been an established part of all good schools’ curriculum and pupils have enjoyed a broad range of sporting activities over the years. Many of us will recall with pride our ‘PE’ lessons and occasions when we represented our school at events and will recognise how these have shaped our personalities and values in later life. It is only relatively recently that we have started to appreciate the wider benefits to the ‘whole child’ that sport offers.
Aside from obviously ticking the “keeping fit and healthy” box, ensuring sports becomes a regular feature of school life can also deliver huge benefits to the mental, social and emotional wellbeing of the child. Read on for more information from the Director of Sport at an independent school in Surrey.
Firstly, let’s discuss the importance of the relationship between sports and sound physical health. Sport is an important part of the school curriculum and the calendar of events. It is no surprise that when asked about the benefits of sports, the majority will refer to improved fitness, increased strength and speed and the opportunity to encourage weight loss and enhanced overall physical well-being. Research shows that people who take part in regular physical activity are less at risk of many chronic conditions such as, strokes, type two diabetes, cancer, obesity and musculoskeletal illnesses.
Although most pupils will not consider this health guidance relevant at such a young age, as adults helping to shape the thinking of the future generation, it is our responsibility to ensure the early adoption of the active lifestyle to minimise the impact of such conditions in later life. To quote statistics to support this viewpoint, in 2009/10 the NHS spent more than £900m in treating individuals for illness and diseases that could have been prevented if people lived more active lives (source: Sport England).
We are all aware of the stamina and resilience required when taking part in school sports. I am sure we have all experienced that feeling of wanting to give up when the going gets tough. Sport teaches pupils the importance of perseverance. Resilience is a vital attribute in school and in future life. Overcoming adversity and having the ability to bounce back after setbacks are traits that are not just restricted to the sport and coaching world, they are equally applicable to the working environment.
Building social skills
Team sports play a powerful role in developing the pupil’s ability to become a team player, a vital quality for those who want to succeed in their careers, whether they are sports or business related. Classic sports such as rugby, hockey, football, netball and cricket demand pupils to demonstrate a high level of cohesion, support, discipline and sacrifice. Within this there is the opportunity to identify natural leaders and nurture them through channels which require and demand a level of responsibility such as being a captain. These leadership skills will most certainly be applied outside of the sports field and will undoubtedly extend into the workplace.
Team sport develops social skills on and off the pitch and through playing these team games, students learn the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence as well as the Paralympic values of determination, inspiration, courage and equality.
Research has shown that sport can have a big impact on our psychological well-being as well as our physical health. It has been shown that exercise can reduce anxiety which will be particularly important for young people who are facing the stresses of exams and making decisions about their futures. Studies demonstrate that playing sports improves well-being, self-esteem and increases confidence and happiness which is surely what we all strive for, producing young people who are balanced, well-rounded and happy individuals? Furthermore, in 2013 the Department for Education posted an article which reported that taking part in sport, particularly team sports, is significantly related to the attainment of higher grades and increases the likelihood of completing school and enrolling in university.
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