WITH THE Beijing, then the London Olympic Games looming, schools are looking to sports and physical education teachers for the leaders of the future, and not because they can shout loudest to keep pupils in line. It is because they can apply the sporting ideal - of striving to be one's best - to all walks of life.
Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic gold medallist, called for PE teachers to step up to headships, saying she wanted them to coach not only athletes of the future, but also citizens of the world.
"The Olympics is not just the biggest sporting showcase on this Earth," she said. "It's about everybody having a sense of pride in their nation, not just at the elite end of the sports, but the fantastic leaders and ambassadors and volunteers. It's about engaging everybody in the ethos of sport."
Dame Kelly joined the National College for School Leadership and the Youth Sports Trust at the Emirates Stadium in north London in urging schools and governors to identify the next generation of leaders with a sports focus.
"The current group of headteachers will be retiring in the next few years,"
she said. "To put it in athletics terms, we have specialist teachers and deputy heads who are at a national standard. We are asking them to become headteachers, to move up to a world standard."
Shaun Dowling, a PE teacher and vice-principal at Bridgemary community sports college in Gosport, Hampshire, applied for his first headship this month. "I think the stereotypical PE teacher has been replaced," he said.
"The experience we've had on senior leadership teams has enabled us to put the shorts and whistles away. The Olympian ideal to be your best is one that you can take into any class."
One young athlete striving to be her best is Lianne Miller, of Swanmore college of technology in Hampshire. At 15, she is a top young basketballer.
Lianne said her school had been supportive, especially PE teacher Marie Goodall, who had played basketball for England. She did not expect to be selected for the Beijing Games next year - after all, at 6ft 2in, she still has a couple of inches of growing to do - but she has set her heart on London 2012.
"Sports helps me in being more confident with my school work and being confident with other people," Lianne said. "You get to know people from around the world and to see the big picture."