There is something really rather special about the start of the Summer Term in a prep school. The sense of anticipation is palpable and the relief that the long Winter is over and we can get outside again is evident all around. The sun is shining and we are looking forward to a term of being outside as the calendar is packed with opportunities to go nice places and do good things.
I had the pleasure yesterday to spend part of the morning with a couple of prospective parents. I am pleased to report that they were hugely impressed with all that they saw. Not least, it was the multitude of ways that we plan to get our young people out of the classroom and into the fresh air which impressed them and seemed to be in stark contrast to their current school. I took time to explain to them why we commit so much time to being outdoors and what benefits it brings. I was reminded of the two thousand year old words of the Roman poet, Juvenal, who said that we must all pray for ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, which translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. Though it is possible, to an extent, to have one without the other (Stephen Hawkins?) we know that they are ultimately complimentary.
Of course, it is on the sports field where some of the most tangible benefits are felt. Whether it be rounders or cricket, rugby or netball, hockey or athletics, our young people gain innumerable benefits from taking part. Amongst others, it provides opportunities to develop social cohesion (what the Australians would call ‘mateship’). It teaches us not to get too carried away by success, or too upset by failure. We learn to deal with pressure and public scrutiny. Our young people discover the importance of respect, about authority and the value of the decisions of others. And of course, they learn to be resilient and to never give up. Perhaps most importantly, cricket in particular, teaches us never to neglect the development of the weaker members of the team…how often has a match result depended upon a few runs from the number 11 batsman?!
And finally, I have learnt that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by observing how they behave at a sporting fixture (this extends from the players to the coaches and also to the supporters). In particular, you can tell a lot about someone by watching how they act at tea. Beware those who don’t acknowledge and chat to the person serving the tea.
John F Gilmour