We spoke with Anna Caldwell, PDHPE Teacher at PLC Armidale to find out the secrets behind the sporting success at this leading all girls school.
What are the aims of sport at PLC Armidale?
The school’s mission statement is: “Educating successful women of tomorrow in a Christian environment”. In Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) and sport we ask that girls have a go at everything, try their best, have fun and enjoy what they do no matter what their ability level.
At PLC we believe in mass participation. Every girl has the opportunity to try numerous sports and every girl who wants to can play an extracurricular sport. We focus on the team approach and encourage each girl to take advantage of the team environment. Each team has specialist coaches. Leadership and teamwork are central to the ethos of the school, and sport plays an important role in building confidence and cooperation in each individual.
How do you feel sport enhances life skills and learning for the girls?
Participating in sporting activities facilitates the development of desirable personal, social and emotional attributes and qualities. It allows the girls to actively experience fair play, respect and good sportsmanship. The girls learn acceptance of success and failure, leadership and cooperation. They develop into adults who show initiative and learn the value of making a commitment to themselves and others. Sport develops a healthy and positive self esteem, increasing confidence and ability in all areas of their life. The girls are taught healthy lifestyle habits through Personal Development and Health (PDH) lessons, and this starts in Kindergarten.
You start specialist physical education and sport lessons from Kindergarten at PLC.What is the benefit of this?
The primary focus in PE is on the body and physical experiences. We believe this is an integral part of the educational process, without which a child’s experience is not complete. At PLC, the girls have specialist PE lessons every week from Kindergarten through to Year 10, where they get to play, explore and learn new skills through a broad, balanced program including the traditional sports of gymnastics, dance, athletics, swimming, tennis, netball, hockey, basketball, soccer and cricket.
As their skills develop, they also do water polo, volleyball, softball, touch football, rugby, aussie rules, English rounders, badminton and lacrosse, to name but a few. In Year 10 we also focus on lifetime sports, including gym sessions, pilates and yoga, golf and lawn bowls.
By starting in Kindergarten, the girls are able to develop their gross and fine motor skills, which assists with their cognitive development, their comprehension, reading and writing skills. At PLC, our basic skills results are always well above state averages, and we attribute some of this success to our physical education programs.
The girls are given a solid grounding in the skills required to play all sports and get to challenge themselves in our safe all girl environment. PLC is a school where everyone can play. Childhood obesity is a major social issue in Australia. With this in mind, we are committed to an early start to a holistic approach to health, fitness and wellbeing.
In Kindergarten we are building a solid foundation of knowledge and experience and are striving to keep the girls active, fit, healthy and happy. The sporting facilities at PLC are extensive and they are enjoyed by many other schools, clubs and associations. We recently hosted the Academy Games using our indoor court/gym, office and boarding facilities.
PLC is widely represented across sports in Armidale. What is the secret to such high participation?
Encouragement! The girls at PLC get involved with everything. They do sport, music, drama, dance … the list is endless, and they do everything with enthusiasm and a strong sense of commitment. The broad experiences, opportunities and encouragement they get at PLC give them the interest and confidence to compete in many sports, both at PLC and in town teams, clubs and individual endeavours.
Our girls are competitive in triathlons, ocean swims, marathons, orienteering, equestrian events, gymnastics, dance and water polo, and this is on top of their school sporting commitments. We encourage them to have a go, and they do!
Long term, how do you feel the thorough physical education and sports program benefits the girls?
The health benefits will stay with them throughout their lives. The in-depth knowledge gained in their PDH lessons gives the girls the ability to make educated decisions in relation to their health and lifestyle. Fitness is an integral element of every PE lesson and sport training session. We work on all ten components of fitness and accommodate all abilities. Our PE lessons are differentiated and inclusive of all, raising the awareness that we all have different abilities, strengths and talents.
Cardiovascular disease is the greatest cause of death in women in Australia, so it is of vital importance that we teach the girls how to maintain good physical and mental health and wellbeing. The girls leave PLC with the confidence and ability to join sporting teams and clubs wherever their life takes them. This enables them to meet new people, make friends and have a healthy social life wherever they go. The girls also develop strong leadership qualities, through captaining teams, coaching opportunities and umpiring. These leadership skills, experiences and qualifications will put them in good stead in all areas of their lives.
Tell us about your teaching team, Anna.
The Sports Department at PLC are well qualified and enthusiastic, with Lucy Downey, our Sports Coordinator, Carolyn Cox our Sports Administrator and me. Lucy and I are both from the south of England originally, and Carolyn is an Armidale girl, with plenty of local knowledge and contacts. Together we coordinate all the sports, organise the school’s carnivals and the outdoor education camps. I also coordinate the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, taking groups of girls out hiking during the school holidays.
We believe in leading by example and keep fit and active ourselves. We all participate in various sports in the town competitions. Lucy and Carolyn play soccer, basketball and hockey to a representative level and I play netball and love running, having been an elite sprinter representing South West England during my school days.
Lucy is currently in training to compete in the Masters Games, which will be held later on this year in Sydney, swimming 50 m butterfly, 50 m breaststroke, 50 m freestyle and 2 relays. Carolyn has represented Australia playing hockey, in the over 35s for 3 years, 2004 – 2006 inclusive, winning two golds and a silver in both Australia and overseas.
So between us, we bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the school. We are passionate, energetic and professional and love working at PLC.
Thank you Anna.