Learning Balance Through Independent School Athletics

Independent schools believe that balance is essential in everyone’s life, and that athletics is one part of achieving that balance. Swimming against the current tide of specialization, independent schools offer their students the opportunity to experience outstanding athletic competition in a setting that encourages multiple-sport participation. They accomplish this with coaches who are classroom teachers and who know the “whole kid,” with weekly academic schedules that include shortened class days for athletic competitions on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and with a high level of play in extremely competitive leagues.

By not permitting specialization, independent schools give their students multiple athletic experiences that broaden their athletes’ perspectives. It is not uncommon for independent-school athletes to come to the realization that the sport they wanted to specialize in is not the sport they are judged best at. For example, Doug Knight entered Westminster School with dreams of playing Division I ice hockey, but after playing and captaining both soccer and lacrosse, in addition to ice hockey, he received a scholarship to play lacrosse at the University of Virginia and went on to be a three-time All-American, the National Player of the Year and a captain for the Division I Cavaliers.

The athletic experience varies from one independent school to another, depending on the school’s size. At smaller schools, athletics is frequently the only form of physical education, while at larger schools, athletics may be augmented with either physical education or intramurals. At Westminster School, interscholastic athletics is for everybody.  Athletic participation is the norm, and most students find a spot on one of the school’s seventeen teams each season. With up to four levels of teams for each sport, athletes of all abilities have a chance to compete.

In the end, the focus at independent schools on balancing academics, athletics and community life prepares their graduates well for the future. Many of these graduates go on to excel in college — both on the playing field and in the classroom. The critical skills they learned through independent school athletics will not only serve them well in college but beyond.


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