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Changing the game at UWCSEA: For the love of sport and our children

Ian Deeth, Head of Primary School Activities, UWCSEA East
Nick Dunn, Chair of Activities, East Campus
4 April 2017

“We have a chance to teach our children and our athletes the awesome joy of being a warrior. Of seeking challenge, battling for personal excellence, of striving to be a better person each day, and living and playing with a purpose and embedded in values. … We make this choice to create warriors not winners and we may not fill our mantle with trophies, but we will fill the world with happy, resilient, purposeful people who will make an impact beyond the game.” - John O’Sullivan

With students participating in multiple different sports in age-groups, UWCSEA’s sports programme has seen extensive expansion in the past five years. Many of our students train hard in their quest to push their performances to their optimum.

However, we believe it is important that our community has an opportunity to reflect on what is required for our student athletes to develop their skills individually even as they strive to be the best that they can be. As a result, UWCSEA recently invited John O’Sullivan to share his inspiring messages on children and sports through a series of keynote presentations and workshops with three key groups: our student athletes, parents and coaches.

With a wealth of practical knowledge, garnered through years of hands on work with young sports people, their coaches and their families, John presented his tailored sessions and then invited questions from each group. While the focus was slightly different for each group, the messages highlighted the importance of why we love sport; quite simply, because it is fun!

His message was also a warning that the passion and the love for the sport that a child starts out with can be lost in a quest for achievement, recognition and winning at all costs.

At UWCSEA a small minority of our students aim to be a professional sportsperson. The majority of our students play because this was what they love to do. They put in the work and the time to get better because they want to. And that's what being a part of our sports teams teaches you - to give it your all for the intrinsic satisfaction, as well as the benefits that come from regular physical activity and the social and emotional boosts this provides.

The qualities of resilience and self-awareness, as well as the skills of collaboration and self-management are now at the forefront of UWCSEA’s sports programmes and our vision is to align these with our intrinsically motivated and purposely driven student-athletes who will develop positive, lasting memories of playing sport at UWCSEA.

To this end, the College has set objectives for each age group and is working with research on Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) in order to develop a healthy attitude to sports and high performance athleticism throughout UWCSEA. Feedback from students, parents, coaches and sports specialists in the Singapore community, who were also invited to attend John’s presentations, makes it clear that his positive messages are aligned with our own. We look forward to working with our community to further implement our athlete development programme.

Biography of John O’Sullivan

John launched the 2012 after two decades as a soccer (football) player and coach at all levels in the USA. He is the author of well-known books that seek to ‘return youth sports to our children’: ‘Changing the Game: The Parents’ Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes - Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids’ and ‘Is it Wise to Specialize?’ He is a widely sought-after public speaker and has presented in schools, universities and sports academies around the world.

John’s writing has also been featured in many publications including The Huffington Post and Soccer America. He is widely known for his engaging TED Talk ‘Changing the Game in Youth Sports.’