Sport For All
The Head's Study
“ By the age of 14, 78% of girls understand the importance of an active lifestyle but only 28% really enjoy taking part in physical activity. 29% of girls say not being good at sport stops them from taking part in school sport.”
Recent research has reminded us, once again, of what we have known all along. Being outside and active makes us feel better, think more clearly and work more efficiently. Researchers at Harvard University School of Medicine conducted a study on the effects of exercise on sleep. Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day outdoors in nature lowers stress levels, improves our mood, sharpens our concentration and improves sleep.
Statistics on girls and sport show a worrying trend. By the age of 14, 78% of girls understand the importance of an active lifestyle but only 28% really enjoy taking part in physical activity. 29% of girls say not being good at sport stops them from taking part in school sport. This reflects my experience as a teenager. For 18 months, with glandular fever draining me of all energy, I had a perpetual ‘off games’ chit. Somehow this morphed into slipping under the radar for my remaining years in lower school. I had never made it into school sports teams before I fell ill; now I congratulated myself on having more time to study.
Rather than sport, Mental Health Awareness week this term focused relentlessly on the outdoors from walk and talk tutorials to yoga, K-Pop, Boomwhackers and Kickboxing all scheduled to be outside soaking up our beautiful setting. Despite the changeable weather and the demands of assessments for so many students, it was fabulous to see such a huge proportion of our girls taking up the mantra of ‘say yes; give it a go’. Even better was witnessing the bright eyes and chatter as students came in for their afternoon lessons, invigorated, energised and ready to settle to their learning.
Perhaps it is time to rename our ‘Sport for All’ vision. The word ‘sport’ has connotations of teams, competition, traditional activities which, and I was one of these, do not appeal to us all because they require a skillset and mindset we do not all have. Fitness and wellbeing however - now, that is something with which no one would argue. At this week’s Pastoral Parent Forum Meeting one parent asked whether we would consider more ‘modern’ sports such as Zumba for our younger girls. For modern sport read activity and fitness. Zumba is an excellent example of an activity that lifts our pulse and our mood. There is no chance of letting down others in the team if we perform poorly and, aside from failing to master some of the more sassy hip movements, there is no call for competition.
So, we will continue at Royal High to embed a culture of fitness and wellbeing for all, in the many and varied guises that this takes. For some, this will be traditional sports practices at lunchtime, for others, it will be dance, yoga or a gentle run or walk in the grounds. For all, it will be physical activity and health at the heart of our school day, away from classrooms, screens and study.