At Somerset College Preparatory School, our children are involved in many sports. You might ask the questions: “Why play sport? What role does it play in my child’s development?” In the Prep, we aim to focus on the process and not the product or outcome. Hence, the following concepts are what underpin sport at the Prep School:
Healthy living and physical development
Today, children live very differently to the way that previous generations did. They are able to communicate with people and places around the world in an instant – with a press of a button; not to mention the hours spent watching TV or playing computer games. The physical development of the child is completely neglected in this type of lifestyle. At the College, we endeavor to develop a compulsory sports programme that will expose the children to a wide range of sports, which will address the physical development of the child. This programme should also provide opportunities to develop a positive attitude towards physical exercise – in other words, a lifestyle.
Children need to not only participate in sport, but also to love the enjoyment side of it. It is not all about making the A or B team. If children are allowed to experience a wide range of sports at a young age, it allows them to discover which sports they enjoy, and which sports for which they may have a talent. This puts them in a position to make an educated choice as to which sports they would like to focus on when they move into the Senior School. We must not forget the enjoyment side of sport! It’s also about enjoying the game and having fun!
Sport provides the opportunity for children to learn and develop various skills. Different sports will challenge the children to use different skill sets and, in the process, develop a child’s self-confidence.
Playing as a team and what the team accomplishes
The role of a team (learning to play as a team) must never be underestimated in the growth of a child. The things that a team accomplishes or, for that matter, does not accomplish, will influence the development of a child. It is also a place where a child will experience differences and hopefully learn to tolerate those differences and, at the same time, support them.
Camaraderie / friendships
Through playing sport, children learn about camaraderie and friendships. It’s the friendships formed on the field that will impact their lives off the field. Opportunities to play in festivals, tournaments and tours encourage the development of friendships.
Learning to compete (Emotional development)
Sport offers an opportunity for children to learn how to compete. It teaches children how to emotionally handle winning as well as how to handle losing. These life skills that the children learn through experience are paramount to their emotional development.
Sport also challenges the children to learn about respect. This includes respect for the game (how you play it and with what type of attitude you should play the game) as well as respect for all of the role players of the game (coaches, opposition, spectators and the referees/umpires). The children are the custodians of the future of the games that they play.
Role of the Parent
One key element which will hugely impact the development of these principles is the Role of the Parent. The challenge that parents face is huge. Sometimes the fine line between seeing your child’s potential and seeing their performance often gets blurred. Whether your child is playing in the A team or D team, the potential should always be celebrated from the sidelines. They should hear the cheers and encouragements flowing. I sometimes think that many children would love to say to their dads (in particular): “Dad, don’t coach me!” If that happens, then the lines have been blurred between potential and performance. The key is to not allow your child’s performance to distract you from their potential. The challenge for the parents is to keep supporting the potential from the sidelines and to ask questions (after a sports match) like:
What did you enjoy about the game?
What did you learn?
Did you give your best?
Did you play as a team?
The challenge is to avoid questions like:
Did you win?
Who scored the goals?