Owen Vale Editorial 1 March 2024

Let’s talk sport!

In early 2022, the Brigidine sport leadership and administrative team took a strategic look at all things related to College sports. Participation stood out as the key area of focus. This process remains ongoing, and like all things is limited by the finite nature of resourcing. Below is some of what was considered back in 2022, together with some positive data to highlight how things are tracking.

Throughout the independent education sector (nationally and internationally), school publications regarding sport are predominately results focussed marketing tools. They describe and dwell on eye-catching facilities, outstanding individuals, championships and trophies. What is too often absent however, is the articulation of the benefits of sport; the why’ of school sport, its purposes and outcomes.

A strong school sporting culture creates an environment and experience with which students wish to engage; an atmosphere where they feel connected to each other and linked to a bigger purpose, where they feel safe and valued. Values such as teamwork, commitment and selflessness need to be carefully built and deliberately reinforced.

The biggest area of opportunity for schools is to improve the level of exercise undertaken by all students. Creating an active community (which includes staff and parents) is a challenge which is arguably more important than scoring goals against a rival school. Students in schools where it is normal, fun and even ‘cool’ to be involved in sport, improve their skills and wellbeing. Without this inclusive atmosphere, only a small number of enthusiastic students will be regularly involved and competitive sport will be marginalised in the life of the school community.

Sport will always celebrate a win, a premiership and the representative team selection (and rightly so), yet for many the distinction between performance and participation has become artificial and irrelevant. Performers are, by definition, participants and different styles of participation are appropriate to different groups of students. Performance and participation are both integral dimensions of an inclusive program.

Building a culture of health and fitness is multi-dimensional. There is education, for example, understanding the influence of physical activity on wellbeing. Equally important is the opportunity to take part; ease of accessibility, variety of activities, inclusivity (social and emotional considerations). Reward and recognition mechanisms are important – formal and informal, intrinsic and extrinsic, overt and covert – these should acknowledge and reward involvement as much as performance.

Perhaps the greatest influence on the development of a positive health and fitness culture for our young women has been aspirational and motivational, with the incredible rise of professionalism and role models in women’s sport at a national level, for example The Matildas, Big Bash Cricket, and the rise of traditionally male dominated sports such as AFL, and Rugby.

At Brigidine we aim to foster an inclusive sporting culture, providing a variety of opportunities for students to be involved and feel a sense of achievement and belonging. As a result, we continue to experience increased participation in sport. As a percentage of total school enrolments, approximately 40% of all students currently play sport for Brigidine each term. Some impressive participation increases since 2022 include: Football (Soccer) enrolments are up 59%, Netball enrolments are up 30%, Touch Football up 10% and AFL up 25%. Our strength and conditioning program filled to capacity in just three days in Term 1 with girls enthusiastically training before school. We are also excited about the upcoming Fiji-Canada International Sports Tour for Football and Rugby 7s for 32 students and five staff at the end of term and have recently updated out playing uniforms, not to improve performance, but to build a sense of team unity and pride as students represent Brigidine at all levels of competition.

Owen Vale
Director Cocurricular

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