Achieving high sporting standards

Achieving high sporting standards

Achieving high sporting standards

Happy (belated) Mary Ward day!

We celebrated our 17th century foundress’ birthday on Tuesday of this week and I was mindful of the fact that Mary Ward was an incredibly fit individual, in body and mind; she must have been to have walked in an everyday pair of leather shoes, three times from England to Rome to petition three different Popes about her vision for women, and women’s education.

So vibrant and ‘on the move’ was Mary Ward, along with her dedicated group of friends that, as a term of opprobrium, one Pope referred to Mary Ward and her supporters as ‘galloping girls’. We would like to reclaim that term, much more positively, as we think about our students as 21st century galloping girls: on the move and ready to make a difference for those generations who will follow in the coming centuries!

With this in mind, and with the recent focus on sport, thanks to the insights gleaned from our parental survey, this week’s blog focuses on fitness and well-being. We have recently updated parents about redeveloping our sports facilities on Long Road and the River Cam. Additionally, some members of our community may not be aware that we also provide fitness equipment at a number of our school sites – such as an outdoor gym at the Senior School, a Sixth Form gym and dance studio, an outdoor adventure play area at the Junior School, and a fitness room featuring a popular rowing machine for boarders at Mary Ward House. The Junior School is pushing ahead with its latest venture: a Forest School!

I have written previously about our ‘sport for all’ mantra, and our on-going commitment to this ensures enjoyable opportunities for all of our students to trial a broad range of sports and find a team game or individual pursuit that suits them. We take great care to encourage the girls to develop positive attitudes towards sport and physical fitness, as we recognise that this will be beneficial to them throughout their lives.

Since we have heard recently from the adults in our sporting community, I thought it would be good to hear this week from some of our students.

Annie Q., Upper Sixth student, Games Captain

“My motivation to train is not only to keep fit and healthy, but by training hard it makes competing much more enjoyable because you know you've put the work in and being at the top of your form is the best feeling. As well as this my motivation comes from my team mates, and people around who support me and want me to do well. Curricular sport at school, especially hockey, has been great fun this year and it has instilled a good competitive spirit which makes us want to be better. We have seen a great improvement from all players and because we all work well together and enjoy our training sessions we have become a better team. So much so that we beat the Stephen Perse for the first time in nearly six years!”

Ameila S., Lower Sixth student who has trained and performed with one of the national performance centres in hockey

“Sport is the perfect opportunity to work in a team and create connections with people of all ages and backgrounds.

I am motivated by a desire to do the very best I can and to continue to push myself.

Future opportunities also provide motivation as I know that if I continue to work hard I will hopefully have an exciting future in sport. Training is my favourite part, as it is a place to experiment and try new things without the pressures of competition. It also allows me to learn new ways to improve my game and to work alongside team mates. My school has been very supportive of my ambitions, through enabling me to take part in school sports teams, and also to coach – I have been offered the chance to coach a goal keeper club. My proudest achievement recently was being signed for a national league club and training weekly with an Olympian! The only thing I’d like to see more of at school in terms of sport would be to see more use of the Sixth Form gym, as it is a great facility and it would be great to see more students using it!”

Emma W., Year 11 student who has represented the English Independent Schools (EIS) national football team

“I love sport because it takes my mind off things; it’s a chance to get outside and have some fun! My main motivation is to be the best that I can be – and I can always be better and improve every training session. I am very competitive but, equally, I am competing with myself to become better. My favourite part of PE has been playing tennis in the summer – I hadn’t played in ages and it reminded me how much I love it!”

Sport and HPL

It is clear from the girls’ stories above that providing opportunities to try new sports, making sport and fitness enjoyable, and providing challenges, opportunities to compete, and the tools to achieve high standards is essential for our students. With this in mind, I invited Miss Kim Cooil, 2nd in Games, to explain in a little more detail how the new school-wide Teaching & Learning approach, High Performance Learning, is incorporated in to PE lessons and sports clubs to achieve this:

“In PE and games we are lucky that the core concepts of HPL are naturally embedded in what we do. We always set high expectations in terms of organisation, behaviour and effort levels.

The learning environments allow for constant, immediate feedback to occur. As the girls are continuously practising their skills either in isolation, or within a game, they are constantly reviewing their own performances, or receiving feedback from us, as teachers. They receive immediate feedback about what has been successful and what needs to be changed and they can correct their mistakes and see progress within the lesson.

Once the girls receive feedback, they also then have the opportunity to develop resilience and problem-solving techniques, quite independently from their teachers, to ensure the same situation doesn’t arise again.

Students can also be kinaesthetically aware; a particular serve in tennis might have felt right or wrong, and this type of experience is unique to learning in PE, sport and dance.

As PE is a practical subject, HPL’s Advanced Cognitive Performance characteristics (ACPs) of meta-thinking, linking, analysing, creating and realising are rooted in the way the girls learn, and are demonstrated in the girls’ sports outcomes every week.

Some activities lend themselves more obviously to different ACPs, but we are trying to ensure students can discover the ACPs in every lesson, and every sport. Gymnastics and dance, for example, allow ‘creating’ to be at the core of their focus; you just have to look at our annual Gymnastics Display to see evidence of this and we look forward to seeing many of you at the event on Tuesday 6 February. We are now asking students to think about where flexible and fluent thinking, as well as evolutionary and revolutionary thinking, are placed in invasion games: undoubtedly there is a place.

As a department we have chosen to focus on ‘analysing’ as this term’s ACP. This is to continue to develop students’ independent learning and problem-solving skills by giving them the tools and confidence to break down a task, decide on a suitable approach, and then act accordingly. Being critical when analysing their own performances, and their peers’, is also something the girls are continuing to develop. We often question them on why their team was not as successful as the opposition or vice versa, and ask them what they think they could have done tactically to gain an attacking advantage, or how they could improve their individual skills. We then see whether the girls reapply that principle into the lesson. It is the ability to be critical of themselves, to rationalise this within the environment, while also maintaining confidence, that allows true ‘high performance’ to be demonstrated." 

"The girls often demonstrate high performance learning without realising they are doing so, and it is our job, as PE teachers, to reinforce to them how and why they have been able to achieve such high standards.”