Teamwork and sport

By Sarah Jane Lambie and Emma Brazil – Co-Sports Coordinators

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb

Teamwork, collaboration and the importance of helping each other succeed is a feature of Montessori education — in all aspects of our daily school life. Our classrooms are multi-age, providing the setting for older students to learn how to be role models and to help the younger ones. As older students model kindness and leadership, teach skills and inspire younger students, so the sense of community deepens as students work together to all be the best they can be.

Accordingly, our school spaces could be described as

…incubators for teamwork, filled with students working together to support, encourage and question each other, learning much more than just the academics they are working on. They learn to have ideas accepted, improved upon and maybe even rejected. Each time they work together, they are learning the soft skills needed to succeed in school and in life (

In the school environment at Wā Ora, we work to the notion it is teamwork, not competition, which is what it takes to succeed in life, including on the sports field.

However, when it comes to sport, competition is an inevitable component. Our teachers and coaches support students to keep this in perspective by showing them ways to use the competitive aspect of sports to manage the paradox of wanting to distinguish themselves as individuals while at the same time wanting to be a valued, contributing and liked part of the whole… a good team player.

From this, students learn that participating in team sport binds and connects people —in friendship, skill, enjoyment and the thrill of a united struggle that is (hopefully!) not life threatening.

Dr. Montessori (1949) wrote that sports “…challenge us to acquire a new skill … and this feeling of enhancing our abilities is the real core of our delight in the game.” (p. 180).

Playing in a team also requires the virtues of courage, persistence, perseverance and patience. Being part of a sports team brings frustrations and challenges with all of these. But, by sticking with the team, students have opportunities to develop and practice the valuable life skills associated with these virtues along with the value of applying them to other aspects of their lives… always remembering to be gracious in victory and in defeat.

People do not stand alone; our species is just not made that way. We are all part of teams, small and large. Throughout level 4 lockdown, we worked together as a ‘team of 5 million’ to rid our country of the Covid-19 virus. During this time, we were separated from all but immediate whānau having time to reflect on the things we took for granted before coronavirus.  We learned that humans need to be together. This was particularly evident in the cancellation of sport and sporting events, one of the main spheres where kiwis come together to participate in person, in the same event, at the same time.

Thanks to our efforts, we are one of the few countries able to participate safely in sport and mass gatherings again. Let’s support each other to get involved as players, coaches, managers or spectators, and revel in the joy of coming together in sport.