Learning by playing: How sport can help to develop leadership potential in your child

Posted on 3rd Mar 2022 in School News, Sport

The benefits of sport extend much further than developing fitness, co-ordination or stamina. Dan Wood, Head of PE and Games at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, discusses what children can learn about themselves and others on the playing field and how sports can help children develop valuable life skills.

Leadership is described as ‘the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal’. This requires certain fundamental skills, and often, these skills can be developed, tested and grown through playing sport.

Sport involves taking advice, knowing when to be firm, and the value of staying calm, all characteristics of strong leadership. Furthermore, playing team games helps children experience and practice different ways of communicating with each other, including the importance of listening. They learn to focus on shared goals - the results - and how to work together, which helps increase self-esteem and build confidence.

A positive sporting environment can also help children learn to deal constructively with disappointment. Children should learn that sport is about having fun and doing their best, as well as being part of group playing together. There’s also a sense of adventure to be gained, as children try new things, take ‘risks’ and stretch themselves by giving a little extra.

But learning leadership skills doesn’t mean your child has to be captain of the match. As well as being a team leader, children can also practise leadership by supporting smaller groups of pupils, by being an individual player, or by completing a skills development task. As pupils grow older, they develop the confidence and knowledge to encourage others and can help or direct their teammates to work towards a shared goal. This is an opportunity for children to have a voice, no matter how loud or quiet, that can persuade other individuals to ‘go with them’ on their journey together.

Naturally, schools help children to acquire and grow their leadership skills through all their education and extra-circular activities, but sport will always play a valuable part in this development. They might be asked to read match reports in assembly or let other students know they have been selected for a team, being a voice for all pupils. The benefits of such activities can easily be transferred into other areas, such as working more effectively with others to complete group tasks in their science lesson or being more confident when delivering a speech in their English lesson.

The more effort we can put into supporting children in the development of their leadership potential from an early age, the better equipped they are for later life and the more likely they will be to continue that development themselves. You can never start sports too early – dexterity becomes coordination and then confidence.

When encouraging your child to take part in sports and to support their learning through playing, Mr Wood urges parents to remember the three following points:

  1. Leadership doesn’t mean calling all the shots – it’s all about working effectively with others – your child doesn’t have to be captain of the match to be learning the leaderships skills that will help them later in life.
  2. Leadership skills need encouragement and support to develop – sport and team game will help with this, but ensure you are always encouraging your child to take part and do their best.
  3. Unconscious learning happens through having fun, so lastly, but most importantly, ensure your child is enjoying themselves!

If you would like to know more about Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School or the sport provision they offer, please contact admission@princesgardensprep.co.uk or call 020 7591 4620.