School Sports: The link between participation and academic success

In our latest blog article, ACS Hillingdon’s Athletic Director, Jett Russell, examines the ways participation in sport improves student performance in the classroom, and shares tips for establishing a successful school sports programme.

It has long been accepted that sport can help build and enhance critical life skills, such as time management, collaboration, achieving short term objectives and long-term goals, overcoming adversity, building self-confidence, work ethic, and the social bonds that are formed with teammates.

Regular exercise is also scientifically proven to improve brain function, and decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. It also helps people sleep better, which results in a whole host of every day benefits.

Students who participate in sports are more likely to be both successful during and after their time at school. Jett Russell, ACS Hillingdon Athletic Director

At ACS Hillingdon, our administration and curriculum ensures that sports play a key role in delivering a well-rounded education to all our boys and girls, creating very high rates of participation. Students who participate in sports are more likely to be both successful during and after their time at school. Our student athletes gain from being positively challenged every day, both in the classroom and on the field of play.

ACS Hillingdon athletes ACS Hillingdon athletes

3 ways to build a successful sports programme

Many factors go into running a successful sports programme, but in my view, there are only three critical elements required for success:

  1. Great facilities and strong administrative support. Without a place to play, there will be challenges. Without the support of the Head of School, Principals, and of course the Board of Trustees, the system will not be able to grow and improve. We are lucky to enjoy active internal support for the athletics programme, and have been able to add facilities as needed.
  2. High levels of student participation at all ages has ensured our programme has been able to thrive, expand, and improve. Importantly, we encourage and see equally high participation from both boys and girls.
  3. Recruit and keep great coaches. Students generally participate to have fun, enjoy the thrill of competition, and to bond with their peers. A great coach can deliver all this and also act as a true role model beyond the school gates.

I am firm believer in seasonal sports rather than year around sports, to give students variety in what they do, and reduce burn out and injuries. Seasonal sports also allow students to learn from a variety of coaches, develop a wide range of skills, and work with new peer groups within their school. It is my hope that all schools embrace the ethos that sports have a positive impact on all parts of school life.

About the author: Jett Russell is the Athletic Director at ACS Hillingdon. He has worked in California, Indonesia, Norway, and the UK. He holds a BS in Kinesiology (Exercise Science and Fitness), a physical education/health teaching certification from San Francisco State University, and a Masters of Education in Administration from Endicott College. Jett played four years of collegiate baseball in California and Iowa, as well as 5 years of semi-professional baseball in California.

Further reading:

Sport and Education Summary - Sport England

Why women who play sport are more successful -