From the Principal, 24 June 2020
Fiona Godfrey – Principal
As we look toward the final day of Term 2, and Semester 1, 2020 for students tomorrow, I want to thank all Radford families for the great support they have shown the College over the last number of weeks. These times have not been easy, and I know many have been tested, however, I have a real sense that we are starting to move through what was a very challenging period.
My Bulletin article this week concentrates on sport and physical activity. Once again, I have highlighted the positive impacts on sport for young people, have detailed some plans for improving sporting facilities at Radford, and finally, I have saluted the work of our outgoing Head of Sport, Mr Brent Larkham.
I wish all members of the Radford community a very relaxing and rewarding mid-year vacation and/or break.
The importance of sport and physical activity
People who have known me for a while will know that I have always been strong advocate of the benefits, for people of all ages, of being involved in regular physical activity, but particularly young people, as they start to set up lifelong habits and are able to harness the benefits physical activity can bring.
Exercise and involvement in sporting programs have huge benefits for school-aged children. The research detailing that the advantages are many and varied, and include areas such as better sleep habits, weight control, increased bone density, and heightened energy levels, to name but a few. In my view, however, the two main benefits for student involvement in sport are its ability to make people feel happier and perform better cognitively.
There is no doubt that exercise has been shown to improve young people’s mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression. Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain.
Studies have also consistently demonstrated that physically active people are not only healthier but also perform better on tests of cerebral or intellectual ability. Some studies even indicate that the results can be expedient - even a quick 5-minute walk can yield immediate results. Most studies show that the more exercise students get, the more proficient their mental faculties and cerebral performance can become.
It has been scientifically demonstrated that physical exercise is tightly correlated with mental acuity. John J. Ratey, a Harvard University psychiatrist, synthesized a volume of research for his 2008 book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In his book, Ratey describes taking MRI scans of the brains of sedentary people who have suddenly improved their fitness levels; the scans show increased volume in the hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes, the regions of the brain associated with cognitive functioning. The hippocampus, in particular, is associated with memory and learning.
Additionally, a study carried out by the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee in the UK found strong links between exercise and exam success in English, Mathematics, and Science. It found physical activity particularly beneficial to girls’ performance in Science, and overall, children who exercise regularly are proven to be more academically inclined between the ages of 11 to 16. Dr Josie Booth of Dundee University explained: “Physical activity is more than just important for your physical health. There are other benefits and that is something that should be especially important to parents, policy-makers, and people involved in education.”
Sporting facilities: an important part of the Master Plan
Given the obvious importance of sport and physical activity, as detailed above, the College has recently been examining our sporting facilities, as part of the overall Master Plan. Unfortunately, our current gymnasium (the G Wigg Sports Centre), and the surrounding external courts and facilities, are now not able to cope with the increasing numbers of students involved in co-curricular sport. This is not only due to increased enrolments, but also because we now have a higher percentage of students involved in co-curricular sport. Whilst this is a great position to be in, it does present huge challenges for our sports staff, the Technical Directors, and the coaches for all sports.
Additionally, given the recent increase in population of the Secondary School, we are now no longer able to come to together in the TB Millar Hall for assemblies. Over the last 18 months, we have been forced to use the Sports Centre for assemblies, which is less than desirable in terms of acoustics, thermal control, and physical comfort for the students. As all of the Secondary School staff will attest, it is incredibly difficult to maintain 1200 students’ attention and interest in an assembly that is being conducted on a sub-zero Canberra morning, when all students are sitting on the ground, when it is difficult to hear and see what is happening at the front, and it is probably warmer outside than inside!
For all the reasons detailed above, the College Board is now exploring options to build a multi-purpose facility, which will be able to be used for whole of school (not just the Secondary School) assemblies and functions. This new facility will be located adjacent to our current Sports Centre and will provide a contemporary facility for assemblies and other functions, and will also provide additional indoor courts for sports training and fixtures, as well as Physical Education classes.
As part of this exploration, the College is working with a couple of architectural firms to look at options in terms of the layout of the sporting facilities, and the possibility of creating a sporting precinct which would meet the needs of all of our students from ELC through to Year 12.
A farewell to our Head of Sport. Brent Larkham
A couple of weeks ago, our current Head of Sport, Mr Brent Larkham, met with me to tell me that he had been offered a job ‘too good to refuse’. Despite his reluctance to leave Radford (his alma mater) and relocate back to Queensland, Brent and his family have now decided that he will take up the role of Head Coach of the National Tennis Academy, at a date between now and the end of the year, depending on what happens with COVID-19 restrictions.
In a press release from Tennis Australia in announcing the appointment, Brent was described as follows:
Larkham has a long history coaching elite professional tennis players in Australia and is returning to the organisation where he made his reputation as a world-class mentor.
CEO of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, described Brent in this way:
“Brent’s track record in developing and transitioning athletes to the Pro Tour is second to none, and he’s respected globally for his tennis insight and leadership skills as well as his technical knowledge and ability.”
Brent’s impact and influence on Radford College’s co-curricular sporting over the last three and a half years will be felt for many years to come. His vision, passion and energy has transformed the sporting culture at Radford, and for that we are very thankful.
Brent has had a huge impact on the way that sport is viewed in the College, taking it from a participatory to an excellence level of involvement. However, this has not been to the detriment of student numbers. In fact, as detailed above, student involvement has increased exponentially over the time that Brent has been Head of Sport. Perhaps this is because, as is often quoted in sporting terms that, “success leads to success”.
In the coming months we will look to recruit an equally passionate and able Head of Sport.
Reflection by Brent Larkham:
I would like to thank Mrs Godfrey for giving me the opportunity to return to my old school for this role, which I have enjoyed immensely. A new era of sport has begun at the College. Among the initiatives we have implemented are junior academies to develop, grow and support teams into the future, to ensure the sustainability of competitive sport at Radford. I hope that a decade from now, we’ll look back and realise that we were all part of the Radford becoming a powerhouse of school sport in Canberra.