Digging Deep

Digging Deep

I know I was not alone in following the English cricket team’s attempts to stage an unlikely fight back in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide. I was out there with Root and Malan as they stemmed the ruthless Australian attack. It was pure theatre. I lived each ball with a mixture of emotion: half-believing I was witnessing a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ victory being clasped from the jaws of defeat, but tempering my dream with historical reality.

The life lessons that can be learnt from sport and outdoor education are invaluable. Depth of character and friendships for life can be forged in the furnace of a sporting fixture or through shared endeavour in the great outdoors.

‘Sport and Outdoor Education’ forms one of Bickley Park’s Four Quadrants of Learning for good reason. Sport and Outdoor Education are aspects of a BPS education we believe are integral to our core aims: to develop boys who will thrive and stand out from the crowd in their future lives. Sportsmen and women at all levels and ages potentially develop the hugely important life skills of team work; listening and acting upon advice; managing risk and increasing resilience. This might involve Root and Malan dodging cricket balls hurtling towards them at 93 miles an hour or a ten year old boy digging deep at the end of the first half of a football game in the middle of a cold February day when representing his school in a match his team is losing. Will he lose confidence? Will he act upon the coach’s advice? Will he start bickering and blaming others?

The boys enjoy a rich and varied sports programme encompassing rugby, football, cricket, athletics, hockey, basketball, tennis, badminton, squash, gymnastics, cross country, triathlon, swimming and, amongst the clubs programme, golf, taekwondo and fencing. The programme is progressively diversifying. For instance, the boys regularly benefit from the climbing wall installed two years ago. Younger boys buddy up, with one climbing and the other acting as coach and instructor; the older boys pair up with one managing the ropes, ‘belaying’ their partner whilst he climbs. They develop resilience and confidence in tackling progressively more challenging routes whilst managing the risk entailed. Equally importantly, they develop team and leadership skills in the process.

The boys learn from men and women who are leading exponents in their sport. This week, ex-World Number 9 ranked squash player, Daryl Selby, visited BPS to talk to the boys about a sport that has featured on our curriculum for the first time this year, in addition to leading coaching sessions. Last week, Year 7 and 8 experienced wheelchair basketball led by nationally recognised coach Austin Kentebe. In recent history, the boys have had talks delivered by, amongst others, ex-Rugby All Blacks captain, Anton Oliver; rising athletics star, Dina Asher-Smith and ex-Paralympic world Downhill ski champion, Sean Rose. They have been helped to understand the impact of injury through talks by Canadian rugby World Cup player, Richard Thorpe, and the England football team’s logistics manager, Seni Majekodunmi (ex-BPS), who didn’t allow a career threatening injury, that stopped his promising athletics career, to stop him pursuing an interesting career linked to his passion for sport.

Bickley Park’s outdoor education programme is a great vehicle for developing life skills, be it through Reception-Year 3’s Forest School, or Year 4-8’s Adventure School programme involving progressively more challenging survival skills activities. Year 8’s Adventure School trip for this year has just been announced: they will complete the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland in addition to activities such as travelling at over 100 miles an hour down Europe’s longest zip wire and canyoning up a gorge near Ben Nevis, Scotland.

Who knows? One day a Bickley boy might find himself being sledged by an Australian cricketer, with a 93 mile an hour ball careering towards him. Hopefully, the early lessons he has learnt at his Prep School will serve him well.