Kings’ School Al Barsha’s hosting of the recent Under 11 BSME Games took its reputation for sporting excellence to a new level.
13 March 2018| Last updated on 14 March 2018
Picture the scene. Hundreds of highly trained athletes pumped full of adrenaline and eager to take their team to the victory podium in front of an international audience of equally animated fans.
While Kings’ School Al Barsha isn’t quite ready to take on Tokyo to host the world’s most high-profile sporting occasion, its recent success in hosting the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) Under 11 Games required Olympian effort.
At the helm was James Bedford, Kings’ Director of Sport & Physical Education who carried the torch for the school when it won the bid last summer to host this prestigious annual tournament.
The school’s fantastic sports facilities made it a frontrunner in many respects but with a long waiting list of schools just to take part in the event, it wasn’t a shoo-in. “This wasn’t just a PE department event, the BSME Games is extremely prestigious and raises the profile for the school as whole, so we opened it up to wider school involvement from day one,” he says.
With 450 highly excitable 10-year olds representing 16 regional schools, 72 hours of live competition across five major sporting disciplines plus a local fête, gala dinner and responsibility for those athletes who’d flown in to compete, Bedford and the Kings’ team took on a new challenge as not just participants, but turnkey event organisers.
Collaboration and community are part of the Kings’ ethos!
Dubai hadn’t hosted the Under 11’s tournament for a number of years and this was also a hosting first for the school. After six months of planning, on Dubai’s only wet weekend in weeks, Bedford and his 14-strong departmental team galvanised the Kings’ community of students, teachers and parents into action.
Such was the level of dedication that the PE team was out on the netball court at 6.30am with paper towels to dry the surface so that the event could go ahead after a night of rain.
“We had head teachers moving benches, class teachers on score desks, teaching assistants running information tables and FS teams supporting lunch breaks. The way the Kings’ team came together was my proudest moment,” he remarks.
“Our secondary school students really threw themselves into it – getting the pitches ready before the weekend and pumping up balls. We also had weekend ambassadors who handled the meet and greet for the teams, acted as score runners and took on all the small but vital tasks.” he adds.
One of the region’s most in-demand sporting events, there’s a long waiting list for schools to take part in the games, so Kings’ marked another milestone by increasing the number of participating schools from 12 to 16 - making it the largest BSME Games event to date.
Competitive Learning Curve
The experience for Kings’ School Al Barsha’s team of 29 talented athletes included following a special training programme in the run-up to the event.
Says Bedford: “We wanted to take a professional approach so the kids didn’t feel they were being thrown into it, but were well prepared. Even though they’re only 10 years old, they understood that they had tried out for the competition, been selected and prepared for the games the right way – and that included a training log, nutrition etc.
“The process of preparing for the competition is a skill in itself and when it comes to exam time, this will stand them in good stead.”
With pre-event levels of excitement ramping up Bedford says that until the weekend kicked off, neither the students nor staff realised just how big the event would turn out to be.
He recalls the moment: “The facilities looked fantastic and the atmosphere was incredible, with hundreds of spectators - which is something we haven’t had before. For the students, it was the biggest competition they’ve ever been part of. We even hired in specialist referees, ordered special kit and this made for a really professional atmosphere.”
In terms of learning outcomes, it was a win-win experience even when Kings’ students didn’t nab a medal, as he explains: “The boys football team finished fourth, for example, and there were a few tears, yet just hours later they were all talking about how much they loved the whole experience. What other subjects allow them to experience success and jubilation, or defeat?
“You’ve also got to trust yourself, have confidence, have trust in your teachers and the feedback they give. The process of practicing a physical skill is different to the academic side of things and sport is a unique subject that Kings’ values very highly.”
For young talented learners with an aptitude for sports, Kings’ School Al Barsha offer a scholarship programme. Scholarship students have access to the Junior Sports Leadership Programme, FIFA compliant natural grass pitch, state-of-the-art fitness suite, personalised nutrition plans, mentoring from international professional athletes and elite performers, and specialised technical training sessions.