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The benefits beyond the game

Marc-Antony Eysele, Director of Sport at King Edward's Witley, explains the mental, social and emotional benefits of sport

Posted by Julian Owen | November 26, 2017 | Sports & Leisure

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 sport becomes a regular feature of school life can also deliver huge benefits to the mental, social and emotional wellbeing of the child.

Physically fit

Firstly, let’s discuss the importance of the relationship between sports and sound physical health. Pupils at King Edward’s Witley participate in regular sports lessons, clubs and fixtures across a wide range of activities including football, hockey, netball, cricket, tennis, rounders, volleyball and rugby. Sport is an important part of the school’s curriculum and the calendar of events and all pupils at the school are involved. 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 wellbeing. 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. 

Mental wellbeing

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.

Our staff at King Edward’s Witley work hard to ensure that children develop resilience through sporting events. Failure is experienced by every person at some point and learning to embrace it is something that we strive to teach the pupils. We encourage an understanding in the students that the building blocks of success, on and off the field, are setbacks, mistakes and failures. 

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 demand pupils to demonstrate a high level of cohesion, support, discipline and sacrifice.

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.

Emotional health

Research has shown that sport can have a big impact on our psychological wellbeing as well as our physical health. Exercise can reduce anxiety, particularly important for young people who are facing the stresses of exams and making decisions about their futures. Studies demonstrate that playing sports improves wellbeing, self-esteem and increases confidence and happiness, producing young people who are balanced, well-rounded and happy individuals. 

At King Edward’s we strive to get as many boys and girls to take part in sport and the main focus is on enjoyment. Increasing the number of pupils representing the school at a competitive fixture is an area we are working on and already the results are evident. Out of the Year 7 and 8 cohorts of pupils, 99% have represented the school this academic year, from within the huge range of sports we offer. 

More than winning

At King Edward’s we have seen successes throughout the years including being crowned champions of the ESFA U16 Small Schools Cup in 2016. But all pupils are equally encouraged even if they do not fit the mould of ‘sporty or elite’. 

The children in our schools today are the athletes and sportsmen and women of the future so it is vitally crucial that we teach pupils the right values required for them to be well rounded individuals or even elite athletes. In school, we want all our pupils to have a ‘can do’ attitude and to enjoy sports – and to apply this mantra in other areas of their lives. By taking part, the benefits they reap will be numerous.

To cite the Olympic ethos from Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic Games: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” 

To learn more about King Edward’s Witley, go see: kesw.org 

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