Sport has always been an area of excellence at PLC Armidale. Now in its 130th year, the College, recognising growth in this area, recently appointed a Director of Sport, Mr Peter Le Surf.
A name which has become synonymous with tennis in the region (and further afield), Peter, his wife Fiona, and their two sons, Alistair and Cameron, moved to Armidale in 2011 and established the New England Tennis Academy. With an extensive involvement in sport spanning many years, Peter knows sport.
How have you adjusted to life off the tennis court?
Life off the court has been great and challenging. While I miss standing outside all day, even in winter, I do love the challenge of establishing something which will have a lasting influence. My new role is very similar to winning a tennis match; you must have a long-term plan. Along the way, you win a few points and lose a few; however, as long as you adjust and adapt to the conditions, you should come out on the winning side. As for coaching, I am still running some programs at NETA, and I do get to spend time on the court.
Why PLC Armidale?
When I considered applying for the position, I went to a variety of sources for information. One of the main messages, that came through loud and clear, was the commitment to providing a professional approach to all aspects of college life. This sparked a major interest in me. It was not about producing professional athletes; it was about giving all students the opportunity to experience a variety of options. Sport is not compulsory; however, the percentage of girls actively participating is exceptionally high. The commitment to sport is amazing and school spirit evident; seniors support the younger girls, with many also coaching junior teams. One of my challenges is the diversity of sports available and the girls’ enthusiasm to try new sports. Sport is about participating, and not just about winning. It’s about getting on the field and having a go – an approach encouraged across all levels.
What pathways are available for girls if they excel in sport?
Sport at PLC Armidale is all about pathways. Some girls wish to achieve great things, while others just want to get fit with their friends. For those wanting to excel, we have many options. PLC Armidale participates in competitions both in and outside of Armidale: at IGSSA and IPSHA through our membership of AHIGS and AHISA, as well as NCIS. These associations enable our girls to compete against the best girls in the state.
An exciting development is the involvement of our science department. I have just had discussions with physics teachers about students doing some practical work with representative teams. We have facilitated meetings between sports coaches and science teachers to establish simple, measurable physiological aspects that can then be improved once the data is obtained.
From a high-performance coach’s perspective, this is very exciting!
PLC Armidale also has a partnership with NIAS. This has allowed our girls access to some of the best resources in the region. We recently conducted a workshop with a Nutritionist and Sports Psychologist, focusing on pre-match preparation. Another immediate benefit of this alliance is that the region’s talented sportspeople use the accommodation and facilities here. Our coaches benefit from the opportunity to gain professional development, which in turn benefit the skill development of our girls.
What’s your vision for Sport at PLC Armidale?
The enthusiasm for sport here is very encouraging, and the future looks bright. My goal is to provide as many different opportunities, organised with a professional approach, that we can possibly deliver. We may have the next world champion, but won’t – unless they are given an opportunity to experience the sport. By creating pathways which challenge students to achieve and allow them to experience sport at a whole new level, it may just help them realise that dream. For those who don’t choose that path, there are still many opportunities to work in sport. I spent many years coaching in all parts of the world – sport cannot operate without coaches and umpires. Giving students the opportunity to develop these skills is also a focus. These qualifications, along with the leadership skills fostered, will be of benefit in their future.