I don’t know how the kids are doing it, but there is no question: today’s elementary school volleyball players are far superior to the ones I remember when I was their age. During the term, it has been a pleasure to support both of our girls’ and boys’ teams who have enjoyed capital seasons. In fact, both teams have been more successful and consistent on the volleyball court than any previous Matthews Hall team. When I think back to my own days playing the game, there is no comparison. Our students simply understand the game better, have superior technical skills, and “get” the teamwork dimension necessary for a winning effort.
There are a number of reasons for their success. To being with, they are coached well by teachers who understand that the co-curricular program in a good school must be viewed as a crucial part of the whole experience. It is not an “add-on” or a “volunteer dimension” of the learning experience. We believe it is fundamental to the education of our students and, for this reason, it is not viewed as an ancillary part of the curriculum.
There are also many ways to learn – about yourself, about the world, about others – and the team effort required in sports like volleyball is an important way many children accomplish this. Team sports are about so much more than their physical benefits. This is especially so when group sports are incorporated into a young person’s life. Studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and academic performance. A University of Kansas study looking at the performance of students in Grades 9 to 12 showed that more than 97% of student athletes graduated high school – 10% higher than those students who had never participated in sports. Athletes were also shown to have better grade point averages (GPAs) than non-athletes.
The social and academic benefits of our athletic program are many. Although we are a small school, we are committed to ensuring our students always have a wide array of activities, competitive and friendly, which are viewed as integral to the teaching and learning experience. In addition to the physical training and stamina that sports provide, team sports are an excellent way to build those “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, time management, self-esteem, confidence, goal-setting, sportsmanship, and diplomacy.
According to decorated American volleyball coach, Marv Dunphy, “…volleyball is one of the most interactive games going. It is a game of intuition, imagination, improvisation—but most of all, of reciprocity. Of teamwork. There is no way to freelance in volleyball.” Anyone watching this year’s teams probably feels the same way.
Team sports provide athletes with a natural community, which we have certainly seen at Matthews Hall during this year’s volleyball season. There is just no doubt that youth who play sports have higher levels of social support, and that the sense of community created with teammates, coaches, and family members incubates the perfect setting for critical self-esteem development.
Congratulations to both our volleyball teams for a memorable season and thank you to their coaches – Ms. Farr, Ms. Coleman, Mr. Lee and Mr. Whitmill – for their skill, passion, and commitment in developing our student athletes!
And best of luck to our boys as they progress through their play-off season!
Ric Anderson, Head of School