Interview with Cheltenham Ladies' College's director of sports development

SoGlos speaks to Cheltenham Ladies' College's director of sport development Andy Borrie about the school's unrivalled sports programme, anticipated Health and Fitness Centre, and the importance of physical wellbeing.

Boasting impressive facilities and an excellent sports programme that ranges from lacrosse and yoga, to mountain biking, Cheltenham Ladies’ College places a much-needed emphasis on physical education.

Discussing his passion for sport, its benefits for physical and mental health, and the plans for the ‘game changing’ Health and Fitness Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College’s director of sport development Andy Borrie talks to SoGlos in this insightful interview.

Please can you tell SoGlos readers a little bit about yourself, and your role at Cheltenham Ladies’ College?

My role is to lead the development of the sport and physical activity on offer at CLC. We’re developing a new strategy that’s focused on inspiring young women to develop life-long physical activity ‘habits’ so that they are encouraged to remain physically active for the whole of their lives.

How did you become involved with PE and how do you try and share your enthusiasm with students?

I have been professionally involved in sport for the whole of my working life. I studied sport science back in the early 1980s when it was just in its infancy as an academic subject.

Since then, I have lectured in higher education, worked on world-class performance programmes for national sports and lead the elite student-athlete programmes at Loughborough University.

Developing people through sport has been the primary driver for my career and coming to work at CLC has allowed me to do that in a completely new environment. I hope my enthusiasm for sport and physical activity transmits itself through how I lead the teachers, coaches and team at CLC.

If I can help them to be inspired as teachers then they will, in turn, inspire their pupils. It has been a real pleasure to work with the PE teaching team here because they’re so passionate about doing the best they can for their pupils.

We are embracing dance, fitness classes, Pilates, and yoga, as well as a broad number of sports, from mountain biking to lacrosse, within our programmes. These physical activity programmes will be at the heart of life at CLC.

How important is PE at the school; how much emphasis is placed upon it and how does it complement academic learning at Cheltenham Ladies’ College?

Within CLC the emphasis on physical activity is growing rapidly in the context of trying to develop the whole child. We know that active and healthy students are better learners and physically active people tend to be happier people.

There is an inextricable link between mind and body that we forget at our peril. Rather than sticking with traditional notions of PE, such as playing sport and becoming more proficient competitors, which works for some students but not others, we’re also trying to develop a wide range of sport and physical activity programmes so that there is something for every pupil.

We are embracing dance, fitness classes, Pilates, and yoga, as well as a broad number of sports, from mountain biking to lacrosse, within our programmes. These physical activity programmes will be at the heart of life at CLC.

This doesn’t mean we’re abandoning our focus on traditional sports and competition though, far from it. For the pupils who are passionate about competition, we’re looking to make sure that the way we develop school teams is well managed and focused on creating the training habits that all great sports competitors need.

Why is it important to be physically active regularly?

Research tells us that the body’s physical responses to exercise are important for not just physical but also mental wellbeing. If we want to develop physically and mentally healthy pupils then inspiring and enabling them to be physically active is central to that goal.

We don’t want to force the pupils to be active, but instead encourage them to make positive active choices themselves, so that they will continue to make good choices when they leave school.

Aside from fitness, how do you think a good PE programme can benefit students?

The link between mind and body is crucial. Research shows there are fundamental physiological responses to exercise that make us happier people and that regular activity enhances academic performance in the classroom.

Sport and physical activity are also amazing vehicles for developing life skills. For example, sport offers the capacity to developing decision making under pressure better than most other activities, as well as learning how to lead and follow and how to interact with team mates. Sport and physical activity are about so much more than being good at sport.

Can you tell us a little bit about the range of sports and facilities available at Cheltenham Ladies’ College?

In the middle of Cheltenham we have our main sports complex and also a dedicated tennis and netball centre with multiple courts for both activities.

Away from Cheltenham we have recently partnered with Gloucester Rowing Club in developing a new boat house in Gloucester to support our expanding rowing programme, as well as investing in a new rowing fleet. Our new Health and Fitness Centre will open in early 2018.

The Health and Fitness Centre will be a game-changer for pupils at CLC. It has been specifically designed with spaces that are multi-functional so that we can offer the broadest range of activities.

How will the new Health and Fitness Centre benefit the school and what are you most looking forward to?

The Health and Fitness Centre will be a game-changer for pupils at CLC. It has been specifically designed with spaces that are multi-functional so that we can offer the broadest range of activities.

The five squash court areas have been designed with moveable walls so that the five courts can become two multi-use activity spaces, for exercise classes or Pilates for example.

We will also have a new dedicated dance studio, and the design of the gym will mean that we can create new strength and conditioning programmes for our best athletes, while providing a great experience for pupils who just want to enjoy using treadmills, bikes or cross-trainers.

Taken as a whole CLC’s investment in its physical activity infrastructure is really extensive and will give the teaching team the environment it needs to run creative, challenging and relevant programmes for the pupils.

Do you have any notable alumnae from Cheltenham Ladies’ College with a career in the sporting world?

We have a number of alumnae who have pursued international sporting careers, such as Nina Clarkin (Female Polo World Number One), Charlotte Cornwallis (Real Tennis International), Simmonds Immo (Team GB Triathlete), and Janet Cooksey (Olympic Fencer).

Many others have followed their love of sport in other directions, such as writer, journalist and mountaineer Janet Adam Smith, or Sport and Beyond founder, Catherine Baker.

But it’s not just in recent years that CLC alumnae have been pioneering women in sport; in 1902, Muriel Robb became a Wimbledon Champion, playing more games in her final than any other woman in history, and in 1965, alumna Jenny Higgs became the first female Wimbledon Umpire.

And finally, who in the sporting world do you think is a good role model for girls?

I am biased, as a hockey fan, but people like Kate Richardson-Walsh from the gold medal winning Women’s Hockey team at the Rio Olympics are great role models. The players there were the embodiment of a great team and won gold because of their teamwork rather than as individuals.

I also think they are a team that display the values I want to see in sport. For me, you could be technically the greatest performer who ever lived, but without the right values you cannot be a great role model.

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© SoGlos
Thursday 05 October 2017

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