Sport at Abbotsleigh and Why We do What We Do
We are exceptionally fortunate at Abbotsleigh to have so many facilities and so much equipment, and most importantly, so much support for the girls to participate in sport.
When I was employed by Judith Poole in 2010, she was keen to not only increase the performance of our top teams at Abbotsleigh, but also to increase our overall participation. She felt strongly about lifelong learning, and one of the things we agreed upon was that we wanted our Abbotsleigh girls to find a sport they that loved, so that they would continue to play not only in their senior years, but once they left school as well – we wanted sport to be a lifelong passion too. Megan Krimmer has the same vision.
Abbotsleigh continues to offer all the IGSSA Saturday sports – softball, tennis, soccer, basketball, hockey, netball, water polo and touch football. In addition, we enter their swimming, diving, cross country, athletics and gymnastics carnivals. But we also add sports into the mix where and when there is demand. That’s why we also currently offer badminton, AFL, rugby 7s, cricket, aerobic gymnastics, snow sports, equestrian and golf. Of course, we never proclaim to be the be-all and end-all of sports offerings; we are strong supporters of club sport and highly recommend girls seek out other opportunities if they wish to further their game.
Currently in Australia, 69% of children (that’s boys and girls) are involved in organised sport outside of school hours. At the age of 14, this drops to approximately 40%. By the age of 17, around half of all girls have dropped out of sport, and they are one and a half times more likely to drop out than boys. At Abbotsleigh, we are fortunate – this term alone in the Senior School, we have more than 300 girls playing netball, 180 girls playing hockey, and 40 playing rugby each Saturday. We also have around 50 girls involved in athletics and 35 in snow sports this term, plus recently, we had 100 girls compete in the Aerobic Gymnastics (or Sport Aerobics) State Championships! Junior School girls participate in sport with equally impressive numbers.
But, why is Abbotsleigh still so keen on keeping participation levels high? Girls make connections through sport – they find a sense of belonging. And, why do want this at our school? Because human social connection is critical for sustaining health and wellbeing, AND, because a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. The human brain functions better when the body is fitter. But it’s not just the physical benefits of sport that have such a positive influence on the girls – it’s what they get out of sport that they will use in later life.
Teamwork, decision making, time management, organisation, logistics, conversation skills, respect for elders and each other, leadership skills – these are all things that the girls will learn through playing sport, even if they don’t know it at the time.
If any of you have been watching any netball on TV recently, you will have seen the Suncorp Team Girls ads. Their message is loud and clear. Sport builds confidence. And the more confident girls are in their teenage years, the more successful they can be later in life.
So, whatever our girls choose to be when they leave school, they are more likely to be successful in their careers, and in their lives, if they’ve played sport in their formative years. They’re also obviously more likely to be fit, healthy and happy.
So that’s why we do what we do at Abbotsleigh. We want our girls to belong, to be active, to be confident and to be successful.
Parents – if I can impart some advice... You are critical in the lives of your children, especially when they are playing sport. First of all, promote sleep. I learnt recently at a conference, that the risk of injury to girls almost doubles when sleep drops below eight hours a night. Almost doubles! So please, encourage sleep.
Also, please promote physical activity, commitment and fairness. Encourage respect for coaches, and gratitude for officials, and be your daughter’s role model.
And finally, there’s been a lot of research on this, so I’m going to leave you with this last thought. The best thing you can say to your girls after a match is not 'great game' or 'what a win' or 'everybody has to lose sometime'… it’s simply:
'I LOVE TO WATCH YOU PLAY.'