A life in the week of Allen Boyd, director of sport at Rydal Penrhos School in Colwyn Bay, North Wales
Monday begins with a whole school chapel (assembly) in which a selection of match reports from the weekend’s sport are read out. It is usually a bitter sweet affair depending on how the weekend has gone but this one gets the week off to a good start. We have a number of swimmers who competed in the Urdd or Welsh national finals in Cardiff who have come back with national titles and others with PBs. It’s a big logistical effort as the prep school pupils leave on Friday to compete on Saturday and the senior school pupils leave on Saturday after their netball and hockey fixtures to compete on Sunday. But we generally fair well. No-one wants the short straw of driving over four hours down on Saturday to turn around and come back with the prep school pupils! We also had six sailors who are part of national sailing squads who were in action over the weekend, prep school rugby and netball fixtures v St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, six boys hockey fixtures v The King’s School Macclesfield with some good wins and solid results and five netball fixtures v St Edward’s College, Liverpool. We won 40% (ish) across the board which is pleasing, especially given the size of some of the other schools we played by comparison. The most pleasing thing is the number of pupils who take part across the board as we are only a small school with 25 boys and 25 girls per year group. Monday morning is taken up with a GCSE PE lesson followed by a line management meeting where strategy and direction on a small or large scale are always on the agenda as well as calendar issues over the forthcoming couple of weeks. Lunchtime is an ever-increasing hive of activity with many sports clubs taking place for individual sports and one-to-one clinics. After a quick sandwich, it is year 7 and 8 games afternoon with boys focusing on hockey and girls on netball. This runs to 5pm which is a great block of time to work with pupils developing their skills. A common room meeting runs until 6pm after which I clock off and the evening staff take over with cricket nets running from 7-9pm and the gym in our performance centre open for boarding pupils until 10pm.
Today sees the first of our sports award assessment days for year 7 entry. We have good numbers in attendance but are down a member of staff due to illness. So as often happens in PE everyone else mucks in. The day involves interviews with all candidates followed by a battery of fitness tests based on various components of fitness. As we are a small school, it is important that our scholars are good all-rounders. They need to be able to turn their hand to everything. Luckily we have two full time strength and conditioners who can lead on the testing and pull all the data together for us. Predicting performance post adolescence is difficult but the testing helps to put the odds in our favour. Candidates also compete in a number of generic invasion games where they are unlikely to have any previous experience to eliminate training age in any specific sport. It also leaves evidence-based judgements which helps in the meeting with heads of sport where decisions are made over who gets an offer and who doesn’t. Despite the staff absence, everything goes according to plan for the day. The afternoon is prep school games for years 3 through to 6. After this we have senior netball training in prep for Saturday, senior boys’ hockey in prep for tomorrow and senior 7s training in prep for the first competition of the season which is taking place during February half term. This is where I get my hands dirty as I lead on 7s across the school. Then it’s 6pm already and this evening is a mixed U14 hockey league which we host for local schools and clubs. We have four teams in this and it helps to give them some extra game time.
This morning I catch up with our head of academic PE and look at tracking sheets to see where students are likely to end up at the end of the year. With all the reforms in exam PE, there is a lot to get our heads around as we look at what we can and can’t do next year. We currently teach GCSE and GCE PE, IB Sport and Cambridge Technical Diplomas and Introductory Diplomas in Sport so the academic arm of the department is sizeable and a vital cog in the wheel. After break, I teach a GCSE PE double lesson which is great for looking at their practical performance in some of the activities which we cannot assess in their games sessions such as SAQ, circuit or weight training. Wednesday lunchtime is a popular slot in the performance centre for day pupils in lower years. As the boarding pupils have ample access in the evenings we have some discreet day pupil sessions. Along with our girls only sessions, we try to get a balance to cater for as many groups as possible. Today is senior games and the usual plethora of sports are on offer with the performance centre being ever popular. The senior 7s squads are off to the beach with me for a session. We are fortunate to be 850m from the seafront and have a fantastic hard, flat sand plateau to work on. The senior boys hockey teams are away to the King’s School, Macclesfield and netball training is in full swing. We also have year 7 and 8 pupils on an outdoor education afternoon every Wednesday and, as we are out of season for sailing, some are in the clubhouse doing land-based sessions while others are doing indoor climbing at a local climbing centre and others are hill walking in Snowdonia. Sevens goes well. We cover lots but still have lots to do. Precision is important but not as important as precision under fatigue. It is a very beautiful sport but totally unforgiving. If you make a mistake expect to concede.
Today is a heavy academic PE day for me with year 12 and 13 lessons through to noon followed by a meeting with our head of girls’ games. Having good staff to support me in my role is the most important piece of the jigsaw. While you can lead in change, managing it is much more effective and Nicky works her socks off give the pupils as many opportunities as possible. Today is focused on our outreach programme where we work with our feeder preps assisting with their games programmes. Due to our close proximity to Cheshire and Lancashire, many of these are located in England. The difficulty with these is always not over-promising yet under-delivering and ensuring what we provide doesn’t compromise our own provision. Outreach is an ever-growing part of the role. We also have a little on our social media strategy. This is becoming increasingly important in communication, marketing and we currently use Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to publish information and keep in touch with various demographics. Thursday afternoon is games for years 9 and 10. Again these are focusing on hockey and netball but those not involved in either squad have some other sports which they can take part in. This term basketball is offered to boys and squash for girls. We have introduced a new athletic development programme which runs within our games programmes this year with small groups receiving a 30-minute session on how to move efficiently. After only two terms, this is paying dividends and the pupils love taking part in the sessions as they can see real progress in something they took for granted. Games run until 5pm and are followed by senior netball, 7s and boys’ hockey.
Friday starts with a PE and games department meeting. I try to keep these to one hour but it is tough. Due to the number of staff it involves and the fact it is the only time we are all together in the same place, there is always lots on the agenda. Afterwards we all meet for a brew in the common room to chat about non ‘shop’ related business. The rest of the day is about ensuring we have all our ducks in a row for tomorrow - last minute selections, team sheet amendments, referees and umpires, catering, early breakfasts, transport, pick-up points, drop off points and staffing. It is quite a quiet day by all accounts and gives us a little time to breath before tomorrow. Lunchtime is busy in the performance centre gym with sessions for lower school pupils. Their enthusiasm is fantastic and creates a great buzz. The afternoon is a prep school fixture v Altrincham Prep School and I get an opportunity to pop out for a look.
Today sees netball v the King’s School, Macclesfield, boys’ hockey v Birkenhead School, Eton Fives v Shrewsbury School and football v Stonyhurst College. With morning and afternoon kick-offs it is a full day of sport. On top of this, some pupils are taking part in the Welsh Youth Weightlifting Championships in Cardiff. I try to get to watch teams when I can so pupils know they are supported and today I go to watch some hockey as the 7s players have the morning off as some are playing on Sunday and others are hockey players. I take the afternoon off to go for a walk with my wife and kids. It’s time we all need together as it has been a long week.
Gone are the days when Sunday is the day of rest as we have regional hockey and cricket sessions taking place in school and eight of our 1st XV squad are involved in the local regional team RGC 1404 who are playing the Ospreys U18s today at home. The headmaster and I take a trip down for a look and it’s a thoroughly entertaining match which the home side ultimately lose but the boys do the school proud. That curtain rail still needs to be put up and that door handle on the kitchen cupboard needs to be fixed but they will just have to wait…
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF