It’s all about being in the school A team isn’t it? Millfield School’s Director of Sport disagrees, here he talks about the importance of sports teams extending beyond the firsts
On occasion I am approached by prospective parents with concerns around their child being a ‘small fish in a big pond’ in Millfield’s pool of sporting talent, and their fears that their child may miss out if not placed in the school’s ‘A’ team. In this article I would like to explore this common misconception, and highlight how the breadth and depth of our sporting programme extends way beyond the school’s first teams.
One of my main personal objectives on starting my role at Millfield was to ensure that there was no trace of a ‘them and us’ mentality or divide between the school’s first teams, B and C teams and beyond. I work closely with every Head of Sport to ensure that the development of the individual takes priority over that of the team, whilst recognising and respecting each sport’s own team objectives and identity.
Access to top coaches and specialists is essential to each child’s technical and physical development, and this is not restricted to our top performers. Our performance coaches are not wholly exclusive to the first teams; in fact, the recently launched Nine at Millfield programme includes a minimum of one session a week in which the youngest members of the school have access to the top-level coaches.
A young person’s education is poorer if they are deprived of the chance to develop and compete in sport, whatever their ability level. We know that young people enjoy and thrive off competition – it pushes them to do better and work harder, so we provide every pupil with the opportunity to represent the school. Across Millfield’s major sports pupils at all levels and age groups have the opportunity to compete, with a fixture schedule designed to challenge, not one to ensure us an unbeaten season.
A pupil may not immediately break into the first team, despite having been at the top of their game at Prep school level, but our coaches provide direction, encouragement and inspiration to unlock the potential in every child. Where a young sportsperson sees a barrier, we work with them not only to overcome it, but to agree realistic future objectives. How better to prepare pupils for the setbacks that life will inevitably throw at them, than by teaching them the importance of hard work, perseverance and realistic goal-setting?
Inclusiveness and opportunities within every sport is a guarantee. Pupils’ games choices progress from controlled choice – in which every pupil engages in a major sport while sampling other sports and activities – to a choice of over 30 sports and activities in the senior years.
Success in sport is celebrated through team performance, but also through an individual excelling by achieving beyond their own expectations and setting personal bests. If the sporting process that is in place is strong and robust, and the day-to-day experience is rewarding, the ‘mood in the camp’ remains strong, and the results look after themselves.
The coach’s role is to assist in developing their pupils within a holistic framework, so the pupil can develop outside of their sport as much as inside. This means that sport is a fundamental vehicle to develop lifelong skills.
The role of Millfield Sport is to discover and develop the potential within each pupil and for every individual to leave with the skills and qualities to succeed in their future lives. I see this as a metaphorical ‘toolbox’, which every individual builds upon during their time at the school, and takes with them to university life and beyond.
This ‘toolbox’ is made up of transferable skills such as dealing with setbacks, supporting and leading peers, maintaining a sense of humour even when under pressure, and gaining a greater awareness of behaviour and its impact on others, both on and off the field.
Words: David Faulkner
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