Posted: 24 January, 2020

Elite Sportswoman Programme – reaching new heights

Achievements, Blog, News, Performance, Senior School, Sixth Form, Sports, Suzie Longstaff

Sport is an essential part of our social and cultural landscape and with women’s sports shining increasingly brightly on the national stage, there are role models galore for the next generation of would-be Olympians. But reaching the lofty heights of international sport is not for the faint hearted and it takes far more than just talent, as many of Putney’s exceptional sportswomen will testify.

Balancing the demands of both academics and sporting performance is one of the most difficult tasks for any student athlete, particularly those performing at the highest levels. Even on an average day, there is just so much to cram in. With a busy timetable of lessons – not to mention co-curricular activities – pupils, parents and their teachers have to become quite adept at juggling their time. If not managed well, the added pressures of training and competing in sport at a national level can mean something has to slip.

Putney’s Elite Sportswoman Programme was designed to address exactly this; to provide support to the increasing number of elite athletes at the school and their families, to help them manage their academic studies alongside their sporting commitments, and in so doing, give them the opportunity to reach their maximum potential, both in their sport, and their school life inside and out of the classroom.

With so much of a young athlete’s time spent at school, we are well placed to assist with both management and keeping the balance that is required. At Putney, elite sportswomen benefit from a designated mentor to track their progress. They are there to monitor academic attainment and make sure studies stay on track. Simple things like looking ahead to an elite athlete’s sporting calendar make it easier to plan studies around training and competitions, notifying teachers ahead of time so that deadlines can be altered accordingly and workloads remain manageable.

Rosie Nathan in Year 13 currently competes in the National Performance League for Surrey Storm netball and played in the NPL U19 tournament last summer.

“The elite programme is important to me as I can work with teachers to make sure I am getting enough sleep. My timetable is adapted to allow me enough rest around my regular training sessions. It has helped me hugely because it has allowed me to take time off school without missing any lessons. The programme has also allowed me to catch up with work and given me enough time to revise for mocks without feeling stressed about not having time.“

Time management is essential, but Putney’s dedicated programme also provides an opportunity to offer much more tailored support. Of course, there has to be commitment to the finest possible coaching and facilities and Putney is fortunate to have a multitude of coaches who are at the top of their game. From Olympian Jess Eddie (rowing coach) to Lori Westcott, herself a Word Champion Iron Man competitor, GB’s Claire Faram, Head of Lacrosse and world champion acrobat Lewis Walker, these are coaches that can lead by example, and share the benefits of a wealth of practical experience.

Putney prides itself on being down-to-earth but also knows full well that technology, science and in-depth analysis now have a major influence in sport and players can use this to their advantage. Our elite athletes attend the Advance Performance Lab for baseline testing to compare themselves to the national average and take part in specialist strength and conditioning training.

Elite athlete, Amelie, in Year 11 told us, “We get specialist advice on injury prevention and we work on the different components of fitness e.g. speed and agility. My standing long jump wasn’t as far as others but my hopping speed was faster, so I know which areas I need to improve on.”

In addition, there are half termly workshops on sports related issues such as nutrition and sports psychology.

“The elite sports woman programme has helped me balance my netball with work whilst maintaining a strong mentality. Through a close relationship between the PE department, my coaches and my teachers I have been given opportunities and compromises to ensure I can achieve my best in work and netball,” explained Rosie Nathan.

Our elite gymnastics squads compete in Surrey, British Schools and National competitions. Georgie Forbes is currently British Tumbling champion and 7th in the world. She recently returned from competing with the British Gymnastics team in the newly finished Ariake Stadium – the 2020 Olympic venue -at the World Tumbling Championships in Tokyo. She told us,

When I was away competing in Tokyo, the teachers were really supportive. I use some of my school PE lessons to catch up on anything I’ve missed in lessons”.

In tennis, our recent U13 national championship win is just one example of how increasing numbers of elite players are choosing to pursue their tennis careers alongside a Putney education. Emilia Julin in Year 9 (second from left) was on the winning team; she told us,

“I want to be a great professional tennis player but I know how hard it is. I’m lucky that Putney is allowing me to focus on my tennis while ensuring I also achieve academically.”

In 2019 we were delighted to be named one of the top five schools for would-be Olympians in the Tatler Schools Guide. If we carry on the way we’re going, the sky certainly is the limit.

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