Independent Education Autumn 2020

Independent Education welcomes letters for publication. E-mail us at: All letters must include the writer’s name and address, even if a pseudonym is used. Letters chosen for publication may be edited for length and clarity. Find expanded versions of some of these letters on our website at: letter to the editor If you would like to subscribe to Independent Education, please contact David Lea at telephone: +27 (11) 648 1331 , or via e-mail at . Reflections on 12 years as a sports director I would like to share what I have learned after 12 years as director of sport at an independent school. I think the most important requirement for the position of sports director is that you need a thick skin. You need to be visible to all stakeholders: scholars, staff, parents, the community – you are the face of sport at your school, and are ultimately responsible when something goes wrong (and believe me, despite all your planning, something will!). You should have a head who supports you, and gives you the freedom and authority to do your job while still holding you accountable. Staff, coaches and parents also need to be on the same page as you when it comes to the role of sport (and the role of the sports director) at the school. School sport has, in the past, been seen by parents and teachers as one of the following: • a waste of academic time • simply a means to rid children of excess energy • a marketing tool to attract potential scholars • a pathway to future sporting stardom. Yet it should be so much more than that. In a country where in excess of 60% of boys are growing up without an adult male role model (Statistics South Africa Survey 2016) and childhood obesity is on the increase (Sport Science Institute of South Africa Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report 2018 ), it’s vital that school sport plays a role in addressing these societal challenges. School sport is about more than the result on the scoreboard. Sport can play an important role in several spheres: • learning fine and gross motor skills • crossing the midline and depth perception • improving self-esteem • improving mental health • loyalty and teamwork. In addition, several studies have revealed a positive correlation between exercise and academic performance. A sports director needs the ability to see the desired future state of the sports programme within the school context. You need to be able to share that vision with all areas of the school community, and enthuse them about the potential role of the programme. You need to build a culture where children love sport, where they all try their hardest, and where some excel. Finally, there needs to be quality control – ensuring that all opportunities are high quality, regardless of sport or gender. There is therefore a need to identify (and implement) best practice in programme design, coaching, competition and performance support. The position of sports director can no longer be considered a ‘nice to have’ in a school, but is an important part of its management structure. Sincerely Conan Olivier Conan Olivier wrote this letter in his private capacity.