EDUCATION: Recognising the physical and mental value of sport

Rob Kift, Director of Sport at Hurst College, tells Horsham Living about his department’s continuing drive to ensure that each pupil develops a lifelong love of sport and physical activity.

Last term we were delighted to win the Sporting Achievement award in the 2020 Independent Schools of the Year. The judges’ decision to present us with this award was due to our focus on recognising the physical and mental value of sport and sharing the benefits with the wider community, including the children of key workers during lockdown.

The physical and mental wellbeing of pupils is central to Hurst’s sports offering and equal attention is given to those who simply want to participate as well as the elite performers. The ambition is to create an activity diet that engages all pupils in an enjoyable, challenging and meaningful way, through traditional team sports, individual sports and outdoor pursuits, and to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. We also offer a unique player welfare programme, with qualified physiotherapists who triage, monitor injuries and support rehabilitation in conjunction with strength and conditioning coaches.

Our philosophy has always been the importance of sport for all, which not only includes our own students and staff, but also other schools and organisations in our local community. Our outward-looking approach was developed not only with the best interests of our own students at heart but for the good of sport in the wider area. Our extensive facilities and a sustained programme of development play a significant role in providing a broad range of activities, creating community initiatives and hosting sports events. The college has forged strong links with maintained schools by hosting development days, as well as being a hub for Surrey Storm Netball South and Sussex County Cricket academies, a feeder for the Harlequins Rugby Development Programme and the base for Sussex Hockey.

With the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Covid-19, the Sports Department responded well to the unique challenges of remote learning by implementing alternative ways of engagement and successfully delivered a comprehensive programme, including on-site options for children of key workers, last summer and now again this term.

Our creative and dynamic approach continued when pupils returned for the new academic year last September. The priority was for pupils to be outside in the fresh air as much as possible which challenged us to be inventive and utilise our facilities to their best advantage. The requirement for pupils to be in year group bubbles added to the problem but we overcame this with the introduction of temporary facilities such as a golf driving range and the erection of a marquee to house aerobics and spin classes. Whilst matches against other schools were suspended, more house competitions and intramural fixtures were introduced as an alternative.

Under normal circumstances, 100 teams across all ages and levels of sporting ability compete throughout the year – the result of a carefully crafted development programme which has delivered sustained success at regional and national competitions, and which has also taught pupils important life skills along the way.

Successful collaboration with pupils and parents as well as a constant desire to improve is the driving force behind a high-quality programme. We have not only strived to establish a reputation for the quality, breadth and inclusivity of our sporting provision, but also for the passion and commitment of our talented hard-working team who ensure that each pupil develops a lifelong love of sport and physical activity.

The college operates a bus route to and from Horsham to accommodate flexi/weekly boarders and day students from the area.

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