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Why does a School need a Director of Sport?

Posted Friday, 28 September 2018

The Director of Sport is a relatively new role in schools. Twenty five years ago, fewer than a handful of schools had a position of this title.  Now everyone has one.  Many Heads report that this is the most difficult position to appoint to, because – unlike other subjects - the success criteria are not clear.  Is it about filling the trophy cabinet, or the ubiquitous and elusive “Sport for All”?  Can a school have plural success criteria for physical activity – with none more important than the others?  What is the point of a Director of Sport?

A Director of Sport provides three fundamental functions that no school has a successful sports programme without:

The first of these is leadership.  Not management, or administration.  This means three things:  the first is the capacity to clearly see the desirable future state of the organisation, and to anticipate exactly how the programme should be operating.   The second is the ability to share that vision around 360 degrees, and enthuse school leaders, parents, staff and pupils about the potential role of physical activity.  To be an irrepressible ambassador for the potential of physical activity to impact positively on all pupils. The third is the ability to deliver.  Talk is cheap, and fully functioning programmes are rare.  Dynamic leaders walk the walk.

The second is building culture.  Building an environment where children love sport; where all strive earnestly, and some excel.  Where it is cool to be active.  A community where team games are valued, but not to the denigration of those not involved.  When children look forward to Saturday’s games, where minorities pursue their own interests enthusiastically and the conditioning facilities are well used by pupil who value fitness – some for athletic preparation; others for functional reasons.  A strong culture does not juxtapose athletic and academic endeavour, but recognises the science that robustly demonstrates that the former enhances the latter – and sees the importance of sport in developing emotional intelligence in addition

Finally, there is quality control.  Ensuring that all opportunities are high quality, regardless of sport, sex or ability. That there are no soft options. Identifying best practices in programme design, coaching, competition, performance support and many other dimensions – and ensuring that all activities reflect this common approach.

A Director of Sport is far more than a programme administrator and logistics provider.  It is a role that defines the impact of physical activity on a school community; the potential impact on all children’s lives is enormous.  But it is far from inevitable.

That’s why good ones are hard to find

Neil Rolllings, September 2018


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