Sport, Community and the Development of Young Men and Women

Kyle Thompson | Principal 

Community. We tend to throw this word around quite a bit in our workplaces, our schools and even our political landscape, but what does it really mean and how does sport play a part in ensuring our community is a healthy one? In the educational space, i.e. schools, sport is a vital aspect of the holistic development of individuals, that in turn go on to influence the society in which we live.

This week alone at SCOTS PGC I have heard many stories about the different ways our boys and girls, staff, and parents engage in activities outside of the traditional classroom. Sporting fields and venues provide a different learning space and a different form of interaction between the stakeholders in our children’s lives.

I believe that a community, especially in a school context, isn’t just about participating or competing in sporting activities, it’s also about supporting others in their endeavours. It’s about doing one’s best individually to advance a cause whilst also helping others to achieve and contribute. This is the essence of a strong community as well as being evident in team sport.

As someone who has coached a cricket team, I believe this “team” is an excellent representation of what a community is and does. Indeed, one could draw the analogy from any number of sports but for this purpose, I’ll stick to the cricket ideology.

A cricket team, like society, indeed like a school, is made up of individuals. Individuals all of whom have a specific task or expertise. The community requires these individuals to perform their task and achieve individually for the collective to achieve as a whole. Also, each member of this cricket community has a different role to play. There are top order batsmen who have a different role to the middle order and to the lower order. Even in defining these roles there needs to be flexibility. We have bowlers of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the differences in what they bowl and how fast or slow they do it. Each job is different, yet each contributing to the community. Members of this community have good days and bad days, days where their contribution is vital, days where it is not, just as happens in life. Different jobs, different personalities, not everyone necessarily having the same success on a given day. Every member of that community, for it to be successful, needs to be prepared to provide energy and support for those who need it, knowing that it will be returned.

This cricket analogy applies to the whole school context. Our school communities are filled with boys and girls, parents and staff. Each brings an individuality, a different skill set, a different way of doing things. Each are related by their individual roles, working for a common outcome or benefit. Each will have good days, and not so good days, each will rely on the other at times. Parents rely on the school, the school needs the help of the parents, the boys and girls need the staff and their parents, as we need them. Each for different reasons at different times. It is this melting pot of skills, personalities and potential that forms our personality, our community.

In observing the many varied sporting activities over the first term of this school year I have seen our seniors helping our preps become part of our community. I’ve seen the seniors in our swim team supporting the more junior members of the College in one of our competitive swim meets, I’ve seen the sports leaders or captains recognised for all they do, and equally those students recognise and support the efforts of others. I’ve also seen the amazing work done by teachers and coaches, each different to the other, working with individuals and groups of boys and girls. Again, community at work. I’ve also seen and heard about conversations being held about sport giving teachers and parents the verbal resources to support and educate our boys and girls. And, I’ve seen constantly parents working tirelessly to provide this wonderful opportunity to their sons and daughters. The opportunity of developing physical literacy, a sense of belonging, a sense of collective and individual achievement and a sense of overcoming or dealing with disappointment and adversity. What a dynamic, colourful and human place a school is, just as a sporting team is too. Equally, sport provides much of the colour and diversity to a community whilst at the same time providing the glue that can bind a community together. Whilst it may not always be perfect, in its human way it is all it should be to allow our boys and girls, and our community, to evolve and develop, providing the skills to not only change a culture within a school, but beyond school walls and in society in general.

So, I believe that sport is far more than just sport. It reflects and helps develop a strong community and has the power and ability to not just influence individuals but a whole community. Can we truly develop our young people without exposing them to what it means to be part of a team or sporting group? I think it becomes far more difficult to provide the educational experiences required to produce contributors to our communities and society without such experiences.

In short, as an educator of nearly 30 years, I provide the following from an educational and parental perspective ( when I think of the time and expense involved in an independent school’s sporting program…

People ask “Why do you pay so much money for your kids to attend their school and do all those sports”?

People aren’t paying for their kids to do sports as such but we are investing in the following…

– those moments when my kids become so tired they want to quit but don’t.

– those days when my kids come home from school and are “too tired” to go to their training but they go anyway.

– for my kids to learn to be disciplined, focused and dedicated.

– for my kids to learn to take care of their body and equipment.

– for my kids to learn to work with others and to be good teammates, gracious in defeat and humble in success.

– for my kids to learn to deal with disappointment, when they don’t get that placing or title they’d hoped for, but still, they go back week after week giving it their best shot.

– for my kids to learn to make and accomplish goals.

– for my kids to respect, not only themselves but other riders, officials and coaches.

– for my kids to learn that it takes hours and hours, years and years of hard work and practice to create a champion and that success does not happen overnight.

– for my kids to be proud of small achievements, and to work towards long term goals.

– for the opportunity my kids have and will have to make life-long friendships, create lifelong memories, to be as proud of their achievements as I am.

– so that my kids can be out on the track instead of in front of a screen…

…I could go on but, to be short, we are involved in far more than sports when we are involved in sports; the opportunities that sport provides to kids develops attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to enhance the lives of others. From what I have seen so far, over 30 years, sport is a great investment as well as great fun!