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Sport for all – Headmaster’s holiday blog

August 9, 2012

I am writing this as the Olympics 2012 draw to a conclusion. Having just visited the Olympic Park to watch the hockey (and enjoy their magenta and blue pitch!), I was most struck by the fact that though these Games are billed as the London Olympics, they are actually the Olympics for the whole country, even the world! Like so many others, I have been swept up in the joy of the event and have marvelled at the good humour, friendliness and encouragement of the crowds at all the venues. The performance of British athletes in all disciplines has been invigorating engendering a sense of pride and well-being.

In recent days the Press has made much of the high proportion of athletes coming from independent school backgrounds – close on 40% of our medal winners. This is remarkable in one sense: only 7% of pupils attend private schools in the UK.  It is less remarkable in another sense: as with most independent schools, Ballard puts a premium on fitness, sport and athleticism believing that an all-round education is vital. We are indeed fortunate in having fabulous sporting facilities (even if our Olympic-size Astro Turf is only magenta and green!), including extensive grounds and playing fields. Our ethos is also one of encouraging non-school sports (such as windsurfing, horse riding and rowing). We focus on team sports but in recent years have also developed opportunities for sailing which combines well with our outdoor pursuits programme. One former pupil, for example, was a close competitor for a place in the GB sailing team.

We recognise that not all children want to spend time on the sports’ fields and thus our holistic approach which also includes extra-curricular activities, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the Performing Arts. One of the unexpected ‘hits’ of the Olympics has been the concurrent Cultural Olympiad (to which we contributed some alumni as singers) and thus, sporty or not, it has been a delight to see people of all interests and levels of expertise involved in what has been a wonderful summer of participation.

The challenge for us at Ballard following the success of the Olympics is to consider fresh ways to involve young people in an all-round way believing as we do that it is in taking part (an Olympic ideal, after all) where true value lies. We hope, of course, for some outstanding sports people to emerge from our locality for future Olympics but also trust that the grit, determination and perseverance involved in all activities of whatever kind will produce well-rounded, positive and friendly citizens for the future – attributes much in evidence over these past two weeks in the country at large.

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