The holistic role of school sports

By Sarah Jane Lambie – High school sports coordinator

It is widely accepted that participating in sport has a positive impact on health and wellbeing. Wonderful things happen to us–physically, chemically and psychologically–when physical activity is regularly included in our daily lives: anxiety and depression are reduced; self-esteem and fitness enhanced.

Furthermore, through playing sports, there are opportunities to learn about commitment, trust and respect for others; opportunities for enjoying friendship, being in community, practicing teamwork; and for developing leadership skills, self-discipline and the fine art of achieving a balanced lifestyle.

This sounds great, especially for those who enjoy participating in sport; those who are ‘naturally sporty’. But what happens for students who are not sporty? How can we encourage and support the students who dread PE, are among the last to be picked for team games, who dislike the feeling they are being compared to their peers and who do not enjoy the competitive nature of sports?

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that competition in the educational environment was not only unnecessary, but harmful. She said that when children are taught to compare themselves to their peers, they become focused on what others are doing rather than the joy that comes with working to be the best they can be for themselves.

In keeping with this ideal at Wā Ora, competition in the traditional sense often associated with sports, is played down in favour of a focus on good health, participation and cooperation when it comes to PE and sport. While we acknowledge that winning in competitive situations feels good, we are clear it is not the main focus. Instead, those teaching PE and coaching sports work to encourage a balanced perspective.

At the school cross country on Friday we saw a favourable example of this approach. Senior PE students created a fabulous atmosphere filled with energy, fun, music, good will and community spirit. All Y4–13 students were expected to participate and this required real self-discipline and determination for some. Completion and a sense of achievement was the focus for most; the students who have expressed an interest in going to the interschool cross country competition will do so in June.

As well as the various team sports Wā Ora students are participating in throughout the year, we can look forward to two more area school sporting events, namely swimming and athletics. Undoubtedly each will present challenges for our students–and we will endeavour to ensure the same levels of encouragement, support and participation as we did for the cross country.

Looking forward to it!