Innovative sport move for St Charles College

2014-09-23 00:00

A SCHOOL seeking innovative ways to improve performance on the sports field to add to the gains made in the classroom is St Charles College.

“We believe strongly in an educationally-inspired approach,” head of sport Rowan Irons told The Witness yesterday.

Talking to Irons, it is clear that St Charles College principal Allen van Blerk appreciates the role sport plays in fostering academic achievement and the development of young men. Irons works closely with the school’s leader on strategic issues.

In a ground-breaking shift in policy, a change in structure and sports leadership sees Irons directing the sport activities of all five schools that make up St Charles College, those being the pre-primary, junior primary, senior primary, middle school and upper school.

The five-schools-in-one-college concept, on one campus, enables the school to draw from the strengths of having coaching specialists who work on a sport-specific skills curriculum that progresses from the U9 age group all the way through to U19 level. “Our five-schools mindset allows us to focus on coaching basics that are age-appropriate and build a progressive, add-on skills set that is planned and incremental,” says Irons.

Although summer sport has just begun, the buzz on campus is around the brand new home of rugby and football. Currently being built, it is adjacent to St Charles’ home of cricket, is in the centre of the campus and the grass is about to be laid on the yet-to-be named facility.

“This is a pivotal time in the history of our school and despite the economic climate we continue to experience tremendous growth,” said Irons.

“Two new senior boarding establishments were opened this year and a new prep school boarding establishment will be built in 2015. Apart from the new home of rugby and football, plans for a new indoor cricket arena and an aquatics centre further underline St Charles’ sports development.”

St Charles College’s strength revolves around it being a “through-school”; an integrated approach where a seamless transition of skills transference from “Scrummies” (Grade R) through to the more sophisticated skills needed in senior school sport is possible.

“We are working hard at building a strong sporting structure that is both sustainable and enjoyable,” says Irons. The school has sports specialists of the calibre of Deon Gericke, the current KwaZulu-Natal U18 Craven Week forwards coach, who is master-in-charge of rugby, and cricket specialist Robbie Coutts, the former KZN Inland men’s coach.

The sports department’s revamped organogram looks like this: Rowan Irons (head of sport), Gary Ritchie (senior sports administrator), Chad Barron (Prep School sport), Rodwyn Isaacs (sports scientist), Ryan Smith (sports liaison officer), Robbie Coutts (Junior Primary sport and cricket specialist), followed by the masters-in-charge of the various sports codes.

An interesting differentiation from the norm is the current 100% clean branding policy on the St Charles College estate, while the SCC badge is the only logo you will find on sports clothing and the kit.

“Being an independent school we never want to compromise our values for commercial purposes. Looking to the future, any possible corporate partnership will have to complement our commitment towards education and sport.”

Another significant innovation is that while the sports fields, courts and pools are seldom quiet, Irons has brought in a refreshing antidote to those days when inclement weather rears its ugly head. “We don’t cancel sport. We use that practice time for ‘chalk-and-talks’ in the classrooms.”

Tactical issues, theory, video analysis and the like are explored using tablets and data projectors. “The concept of ‘compound interest’ that is generated through this learning process from Grade 4 to Grade 12 becomes significant over the years.”

Players learn how to grow their game through a deeper knowledge of their chosen sport. Coaches are required to have prepared classroom sports sessions should this need arise.

Another Irons innovation has been the change of focus for sports assemblies on Friday mornings in the prep and high school. More than just announcements and ticking off names in teams for match day, the all-important mental component of sport is dealt with throughout the year.

In the increasingly professional world of school sport, St Charles College do not believe in early specialisation.

“Our senior primary and middle-school boys [Grades 8 to 10] can play both hockey and rugby in winter as well as two sports in summer. And as much as we emphasise team sport for its life-skills benefit, our boys also excel in individual sports.”

This all-encompassing, integrated approach bodes well for the school’s sporting future.

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