Why Sport Matters
By John Claughton, Head of King Edward’s School, Birmingham and chairman of the HMC Sports Committee.
John Claughton believes that sport is the key to keeping children on the ball at school…
In the 21st century, sport isn’t just a left-over from history for independent schools. Sport is as important as it ever was. Sport provides so many different things that matter in schools. Most boys and girls love playing and competing. Sport and exercise matter for health and happiness. Sport provides experiences that are more educational than any lesson: we have to cope with success and failure, disappointment and delight; we learn the value of practice and trying; we have to lead and to be led, to get on with people and get on with it.
And, since most parents want their children to be happy and active and get on with life and people, that is why independent schools take great and public pride in their sporting provision. That is why independent schools continue to invest a great deal of time in sport and invest a great deal of money on facilities and coaching: King Edward’s School has two Olympic hockey players, one current hockey international, one former Premier League rugby player and the current star of the England women’s rugby team and we are not unusual in the starriness of our staff. So, it’s no surprise that so many of our international games players and Olympic medallists, from Chris Hoy to the Brownlee brothers, are from independent schools and it’s not that long ago that England had three cricket captains, Messrs Strauss, Broad and Cook, and they all attended independent schools.
However, independent schools will not just keep on doing what they have done and there are two substantial changes that are taking place which are of relevance to the wider sporting world.
The first is that these schools are widening the range of sports that they provide beyond the traditional big beasts of team games. So, for example, at King Edward’s we offer 19 different sports and there has been important growth recently in badminton, table tennis, volleyball to go along with our traditional strengths in rugby, cricket, hockey and water polo. However, such growth can be limited by the shortage of good coaches and the provision of such coaches might be a way in which the sports can help the schools – and such engagement might, in turn, help such sports to grow.
The second change in recent times has been greater collaboration in recent times between independent schools and the world in which they dwell. This can involve sharing of facilities with local clubs and with other schools and one particularly exciting prospect is for schools like ours to help with sport in local junior schools: after all, we have Olympic and international coaches and they can cheer up young pupils very easily. There could be lots of way in which independent schools could work with other sporting organisations to bring more and better sport to young children – and we all know, that getting them young is the key to sporting success.
This blog first appeared in Independent School Sport Today magazine.