Does your school need a staff social sport?

It's often a struggle for teachers to find the time to exercise. But what if it could fit into your school day? Nathan Burns explains
6th December 2021, 12:00pm
Teacher fitness: should you set up a social sport?
Nathan Burns


Does your school need a staff social sport?

We all know how important exercise is, but as teachers, it's something that can slip down the priority list. Who can be bothered to go for a run at 6.30pm when you get back from school? Or on a Sunday morning when it's your only lie-in of the week? 

But this week, a piece in Tes highlighted the importance of pushing through that initial reluctance and getting moving. Indeed, Andrew Jones, a professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter explained that, at the end of a working day, our minds feed us a misleading "perception of tiredness" that can only be corrected by exercise. 

So actually, you're far more likely to feel re-energised, motivated and happier as a result of exercise. ''Exercise elevates the heart rate, increasing the rate at which oxygenated blood goes to the brain, where hormonal changes are also occurring: it's the release of endorphins and dopamine that is so good for mental health," he explains.

But still, keeping fit outside of school is a struggle, especially at this time of year when diaries are full of social Christmas events. But, what if there was an opportunity to exercise in the school day, with colleagues to cheer you on when you really want to give up?

Well, earlier this year, a colleague and I set out on the task of setting up a social sport for all staff members each week, and, fast forward several months, we now have a flourishing weekly sports fixture attended by a large number of staff. But how did we get there? Here's what you need to do to make it a success.

1. Survey staff

The first step is finding out what sports staff are going to be interested in doing, and which days are best. Though you might have preferences, you need to make sure you're doing what other people actually want to do. Otherwise, nobody will turn up. 

2. Decisions, decisions

Once you have done the staff survey, you will need to decide which day to hold your sport on. Try to just choose one day that will work each week, and avoid any fixed meetings in the calendar (eg, faculty meeting days, SLT, etc.). If you put your social sport on the same day as a fixed meeting, you're automatically ruling people out.

You'll also need to pick a sport, or, as I'd recommend, a range of sports. By rotating around sports, different people will come each week, and different people will end up trying new sports, which is great. So, choose five or six sports and make sure they are a mixture of outdoors and indoors.  

3. Launching to staff

Find a suitable time to launch this to staff - ideally, a staff briefing. Make sure you are also speaking to all staff too. This shouldn't just be something for the teaching staff, but everybody in your school. Don't close this opportunity off to people just because you haven't met them yet.

Send a reminder email out to staff the day before your social sport. Everyone will need a little reminder to pack their trainers and shorts into their bag (yourself included). You'll find that without a reminder, staff will just forget that it is on.

4. Nag, nag, nag

To build up attendance at your social sport, you will need to nag people (nicely). Once you have recruited some people who are going to attend, start to get them to ask colleagues that they are closest to and get them recruiting for you as well. For a lot of staff, they will just want to know that they're welcome to attend, so a personal invite (in person or via email) will mean that they will come along.

5. Social, not competitive

When you have got started with your sport, make sure that it is social and not overly competitive. Lots of people are competitive, but remember, people are coming along to have an enjoyable time, not to become the next Emma Raducanu or Marcus Rashford. So, keep it casual, keep it fun and tone down the anger if you lose. 

6. Keep up the momentum

Even if you've got things up and running, don't rest on your laurels. Make sure that you keep sending reminders and encouraging staff to go. If you have a quiet couple of weeks, it can be quite hard to get people back going. So, keep telling staff each week what is happening, keep sending those email reminders, keep having those conversations and continue to adapt your sport to suit the demands of staff members.

Nathan Burns is an assistant progress and achievement leader for key stage 3, as well as a maths teacher

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