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Sport Schools


Jodie Williams, world junior 100 metres champion, is a former pupil of Queenswood School, Hertfordshire


Dominic Mahony, Olympic bronze medallist and


manager of Britain’s modern pentathlon team at next year’s Games, was a pupil at the school. He recalls: “Basically, it was a tub with a plastic lid on top. But we had ‘Paddy’ Garrett as coach. He was trying to produce a squad of swimmers of national standard and he took no prisoners. It could not be compared with a state school.” John Claughton, who chairs the HMC Sports


More than £1.5 billion has been poured into the


provision of sport and physical education in state schools since 2005


Committee and is Chief Master at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, makes the point that several Olympic sports are expensive, such as rowing and sailing. Therefore, few state schools or their parents can aff ord the facilities or coaching. He says: “Independent schools are the main engine for producing rowers in this country. And of course, boarding schools have the advantage of the boys being on site with the facilities and coaching available. For many independent schools, sport is integral to them, which is why many of the pupils become highly accomplished. In many sports, the standard is much higher than it was 20 to 30 years ago.” A survey, conducted by the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) found that almost a third of their member schools have pupils who are hoping to compete in the 2012 Olympics, while over 68% have pupils who routinely represent their country at international level. Lesley Watson, who chairs


The Men’s Coxless Four in Athens, 2004


which partly explains the number of national titles it has won in these two sports in the last 15 years. However, access to these facilities is often given to local


schools and clubs – for instance Dame Kelly Holmes used the track at Tonbridge School. Facilities are important but far more signifi cant is the emphasis placed on the quality of coaching. Millfi eld may possess an eight lane 50 metre Olympic-sized pool, the only one owned by any school in Britain, but before it was built a decade ago the pupils used to train in a 25-yard facility covered with a temporary roof with swimmers changing in the adjoining cricket pavilion and having to go outside briefl y to reach the pool. The experience was particularly refreshing in January but it helped nurture Duncan Goodhew, 1980 Olympic 100 metres breaststroke champion.


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the GSA sports committee and is principal at Moira House Girls’ School in Eastbourne, says that there are excellent support mechanisms provided by the staff in independent girls’ schools so they can excel both academically and in sport. She says: “When you look at the schools which have


girls competing at international level, there may be a disparity in terms of the facilities and resources they possess, but the common denominator in all of them is the support and encouragement they give.” Caroline Pascoe, the head of Truro High School who was


a member of the British women’s eight at the 1992 Olympics, says: “If you have the determination to pursue a sport to Olympic standard you tend to have good time-management skills. Olympians are excellent at managing their time and also make self-assured leaders.” Not everyone can get to the Olympics, let alone be a


medallist, but in striving to do so, individuals develop important aspects of their characters.


John Goodbody, the author of an audio book A History of the Olympics (Naxos), will be covering his 12th successive Summer Games in 2012 for The Sunday Times.


Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 27





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