Ready, set, GO!

Richard Stedeford, Sports Coordinator at ISA National Sports, discusses how to successfully host a school sports tournament

Big or small, long or short, hosting a sports event is an opportunity every independent school should consider. For many schools, sport is an integral part of their community as it often impacts the way children interact socially. Plus, there is much research to suggest that increased levels of physical activity can lead to enhanced academic performance. 

Of course, it is greatly acknowledged that physical activity in the form of sport is not for everyone, but hosting a sports event or tournament is an occasion for the whole school to come together and deliver a magnificent sporting experience. 

In its simplest form, hosting a sports event is a chance for a school to show off, whether it is through quality facilities, a particularly talented sports team or maybe an event that is original in its design. Digging deeper, it becomes an avenue for everyone to be involved in sport, throughout the school. 

There are so many jobs within organising a sports event. Take the ISA National Table Tennis event for example. Hosted by Sherfield School, a number of academically motivated pupils offered their time to act as scorers, crunching numbers all day, and each pupil enjoyed making a contribution to the successful event. At the ISA National Swimming Finals, pupils from Bishop Challoner School volunteered to help with event day jobs such as running results and chaperoning swimmers. Their help made a hugely positive contribution to the running of the event and they were motivated by academic incentives presented to them by their teacher. The point here is that a sports event is not solely for the sporting types. Use it as an opportunity to motivate all types of children to be involved and invest in sport but also to help you deliver a successful event.

For ISA Sport, when organising an event, the priority is always ensuring that each participant has a positive experience. Tournaments and even festivals invariably end in the majority of teams losing at some point during their day and for a child this can quite often be upsetting. There are many factors that can contribute to a positive day, regardless of competitive results. 

The Venue

As a child, I loved football and whilst I still play, it was the places I was given the opportunity to play at that made the fondest memories. World-class venues give children unique experiences that can be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. The ISA Junior Hockey Championships were recently held at Lee Valley, the home of the London 2012 Hockey. Following their triumph, a Lingfield Notre Dame pupil exclaimed,“We just won hockey at the Olympic Stadium, that means we won the Olympics!” 

The Competition

Some argue that competition at a young age can have a detrimental impact on a child’s development in sport. However, a sports tournament, often comprising numerous different schools, presents children with a chance to compete safely and fairly against a variety of children, each with their own set of skills. As event organisers, we try our best to ensure each school plays as many different teams as possible which, therefore, allows them to engage with new and varied challenges. The competition should be diverse and in its design, should cater for all abilities.


The Design 

At ISA Sport we aim to engage as many children as possible which is why we offer a range of sports but also a varied level of opportunities. Five events are entered via qualification and then over 25 of the remaining events can be entered on a first come, first served basis. Encompassed in their design, national competitions offer opportunities for the elite and the standard is high, with professional officials being employed from around the country. 

Despite this, within ISA events, tournaments are designed so that every child benefits. Waterfall type tournaments allow for schools to find a level they feel more competitive at whilst providing them with more game time, making their journey more worthwhile. 

The Luxuries 

Budgets will always determine how far this stretches but quite often unnecessary aspects of an experience is what is cherished the most. Take a conference for example; how often is it the freebies or the evening meal that is remembered the most? Sometimes it can be something so simple; a certificate, a medal, a hotdog and as the child gets older, the opportunity to meet a professional athlete. At the ISA National Netball Finals, we invited England netballer, Ama Agbeze to attend as a VIP. The girls were abundant with awe, demanding selfies, full of admiration and respect. Even for the teams who experienced little competitive success, their experience would be remembered for years to come, if not a lifetime. 

It is acknowledged that each school varies in size and resources but a sports event is flexible. It has the potential to be bespoke and can and should be tailored to suit the strengths of the school, ensuring that it is not only a positive experience for the participant but for the school as a whole. With everyone invested in the idea, a well-designed sports event brings all departments together encouraging the school community to flourish. 


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