When the Olympic Games hit home…
Sitting down to watch the Olympic Games is always exciting. As a PE teacher and general sport enthusiast, seeing athletes compete at the top of their game is inspirational. But this year, it was personal.
When I joined Cobham Hall, my first GCSE group in 2007 included a young lady named Kate French. She was adamant she would one day compete at the Olympics Games. So it was thrilling to watch Kate fulfil her ambition and finish with a respectable sixth place in the Modern Pentathlon in her first Games.
Kate returned to the School for a brief visit this term, prior to giving an assembly later this year, and the girls were incredibly excited. For many, that was when the Olympic Games actually felt attainable – here was someone who attended the same school as them, competing on the biggest stage in sport. Not only that, but in a sport not part of the school curriculum. For the girls, as well as for me, that was when the legacy of the Olympic Games hit home. I was reminded just how vital a sporting outlet in schools is; not just PE lessons, but outside the classroom as well.
It is essential that young people have access to sport and are encouraged to play, regardless of skill level, or type of sport. Extra-curricular sport provides in-roads into physical activity and is a starting point for finding other sports they may be good at. Students should ask their teacher or coach, as there may be something not included at school that could be just perfect for them.
I truly believe that a ‘sport for all’ approach and competing against oneself is the way to generate a positive and competitive ethos in school sport. An extra-curricular programme that offers something for everyone – from a variety of team sports, through ‘Boot Camp’ style fitness sessions, to individual sports such as trampolining or swimming – is the best way to support pupils in finding something for them. At Cobham Hall, I’ve found that offering a range of activities encourages all girls to participate no matter how much experience they have had previously, as well as whether they want to compete competitively or just for fun. As a result, I’m incredibly proud that we have approximately 70% of the student body regularly attending our clubs, and that 10% compete at club to National level in several different disciplines.
In addition, I introduced the ‘Hooper Run’ – a 2km run within the School grounds – as a way to encourage girls to get active and compete against themselves by trying to beat not just their friends, but their own personal bests. It helps students realise that we each have different strengths; some are all-rounders and more suited to events such as the triathlon, whilst others are more specialist, such as cross-country runners.
Having a positive mental attitude and believing that there is more in you than you think really drives sport at Cobham Hall. Being able to find something they are good at, and the support offered to one another, helps girls keep their focus on reaching individual goals and aspirations whatever their level.
And now, thanks to Kate, the girls know that, one day, they too could be an Olympian!
Kelli Hooper, Head of PE, Cobham Hall