How performance inequalities in elite sport start at school

At the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics approximately 1/3 of Team GB was comprised of athletes who had attended independent schools. This is despite only 6.5% of UK school children going to these schools. Of these Olympic sports, the highest over-representation of independent school pupils was in rowing (54%) and hockey (45%). However, even in other high profile sports like athletics, gymnastics and swimming, athletes from independent schools were also over-represented. Outside the Olympics, elite men's rugby union and cricket also have a massive over-representation of independent schools pupils.

In actual fact you don't have to wait till senior elite sport to see this performance inequality. Even at a school level, over 40% of national school competitions are won by independent school pupils. Outside of basketball, football and rugby league almost all other sports have this significant over-representation of independent school success.

At the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics approximately 1/3 of Team GB was comprised of athletes from independent schools.

The major reasons for this inequality are the combination of access to high quality facilities and well resourced departments that provide specialist coaches. Consequently at most state schools, pupils do not receive the same specific sports training and expertise that independent school pupils experience.

With regards to strength and conditioning (S&C) in schools, in recent years it has become more common to see a S&C coach as a member of staff, however these positions are almost entirely at independent schools. I myself led a S&C programme at a prestigious London independent school for 4 years and I saw first hand the immense positive benefit this type of programme can have on sporting outcomes for young people.

At a school level over 40% of national school competitions are won by independent school pupils.

S&C develops fundamental movement skills, strength, power, speed, mobility, and overall capacity that provide the foundation for sports performance. Since sport skills are played out in the physical environment, the greater ones physical preparation then the greater the ability to execute the skills that make up each sport. Furthermore as you become faster, fitter and more powerful you become able to execute your skill at higher speeds and under higher levels of fatigue, which are clearly advantageous for performance.

S&C also prevents injuries which can be a major cause of frustration and drop out in young athletes. Given these benefits, having access to great S&C coaching at school is a significant advantage for any young athlete with elite aspirations.

S&C can also develop a wide range of non-physical qualities that are fundamental for success on and off the sports field. The training process develops confidence, determination, communication skills, self-reflection and the ability to consistently work with purpose. These qualities are invaluable for a successful sports career but also provide advantages that extend far beyond the sport field.

With such incredible talent out there, it is unfair that many do not receive the support they need to reach the top of their chosen sport by virtue of the school they attend. That is why at Performance Ready our principal aim is to improve the quality and availability of the S&C support ALL pupils receive at school.

If your school is interested receiving our S&C support, we offer an affordable S&C programme that can be delivered by your own staff with remote support from our head coach and founder Daniel Lavipour. We also partner with organisations to support schools which you can read more about by clicking here.

Please get in contact if you would like to know more by clicking here.

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