Sports at a Waldorf School
Sport is an essential part of the Waldorf curriculum. Yet the approach to sport is fundamentally different from the way it is taught at conventional schools. To begin with, sporting activities are age-appropriate and match the child’s physical capabilities as well as emotional needs. Then there is the issue of competition. At Waldorf schools, there are no try-outs: any student wanting to participate is given an opportunity to practice, play and excel. There are no benchwarmers at games, either. All team members get to play. Contrary to what one would expect, Waldorf sports teams become powerful forces to be reckoned with – precisely because they are steeped in a spirit of generosity and inclusion.
In addition to extra-curricular sports, the Waldorf curriculum includes a regular program of physical education, sports and games designed to correspond with the child’s developmental needs, nurturing students to eventually face the challenge of competitive sports in a healthy way.
An overview of the weekly sports lessons
Class 1 and 2
lessons conducted with a specialist teacher together with the class teacher. Most activities involve games associated with circles in order to develop a strong class bond and maintain a feeling of safety within the group.
From Class 3
children gradually leave the security of the group circle and play games where they are chased and separate themselves. They may form rival groups and then have to “meet” again after the lesson. This dynamic highlights the importance of relationships. Many social and morals skills are introduced like honesty, commitment, tact, fairness, co-operation and recognition of appropriate authority. The emphasis is on the group as a unit.
In Class 4
the emphasis shifts to the individual. The child’s sense of the qualities of the dimensions of space (above, below, left, right, front and back) must be nurtured. Tag games are played in open areas involving chasing and catching or confrontation.
In Class 5
we introduce team sports which help the child develop their sensory integration. These sports also help develop a positional sense which is imperative for team play in later classes.
sees a move toward principles of specific games or team sports. Exactness, clarity of form, order and structure is desired. Score is introduced, winners and losers, and some physical contact.
In Class 7
the pupils have developed strong, supple and flexible bodies. They are equally at home as an individual or team member. Their sensory/spatial integration is well developed and they are quite aware of their position in relation to their surroundings, boundaries or dimensions of the playing area.
From Class 8
tasks are set that challenge the students physically in the right proportion to their capabilities. When they achieve the required result they enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Through these tasks the students regain the posture and balance in their bodies which they have temporarily lost at the onset of puberty. They are also challenged to set personal fitness goals for themselves and regular follow ups are done to monitor their performance. They are introduced to a number of team sports such as volleyball. Team sports are very important and participation therein deepens students’ social ties and challenges them to achieve higher levels of individual skill.
In Class 9
we set the students a number of fitness tasks that they steadily improve on throughout the year. The aim is not to pit students against each other but rather challenge them as individuals to better themselves as the year progresses. They are also taught the importance of finding a balance between their academic work and sporting endeavours. They are encouraged to participate to the best of their abilities in all the annual events such as the games and athletics days. We stress the importance of achieving this balance and help them develop skills for keeping the scales in check.
In Class 10
sees the student want to understand the fundamentals behind the game or activity. Team sports are continued but take on a more mature aspect. The students are prepared to rise to a challenge and learn the importance of discipline, respect and true sportsmanship.
In Class 11
we attempt to make the sports lessons a little more light hearted as the students are really pressurized with a heavy academic schedule. We return to some of the childhood games that they played in primary school but now they see them in a different light and find them really entertaining. We continue with team sports focusing on social activities like volleyball and helping the student achieve their potential in these games.
In Class 12
the Life Orientation curriculum is the focal point. 25 % of Life Orientation is dedicated to sport, fitness and health. This work is presented in a portfolio format and also encompasses some academic work.
Extra-curricular sport in Middle and High school
All students are encouraged to participate in the after school sports programme, regardless of skill level or previous experience.
Michael Mount has had a number of players in various sports disciplines selected to provincial, national and international teams. Sports played are basketball, climbing, cricket, hockey, netball, soccer, swimming and tennis.