2019 has witnessed a continuation of the change in direction and philosophy of co-curricular sport at Pulteney; a change that at its core is driven by student agency.
Earlier in the year we hosted ‘Parent Forums’ to engage and connect our community to discuss our progress, and to provide answers and clarity to what is being achieved. It was wonderful to spend time in the company of what was an overwhelmingly positive and supportive group of people regarding the direction we have embarked on. However, we are well aware that there is significant work to still be undertaken and more importantly work that has already started and which must be sustained as it is invested in culture change.
Although changing structures, policies, procedures and coaching staff achieves some of our goals, the real change we desire is in our culture, in how we think about sport, and this includes: what sports and activities do students want to engage in, what degree of seriousness and competition do they want to engage at and what values are important to them when playing sport.
It is undeniable at this stage that the significant majority of practices and games now involve enthusiastic participants who are enjoying their experience. We have made significant progress in some sports across participation, performance and results, while other sports have shown improvement in some parameters but not others and some sports are undeniably in decline due to a lack of nominations. We will continue to adapt plans, be agile and responsive to each circumstance, however, ultimately, everything is driven by student nominations.
For us the key is cultivating an environment of development and fun and continuing to put the students at the heart of the experience. We want to maximize engagement and grow participation through quality experiences.
In late January Pulteney hosted The Southport School (Southport, QLD), The Kings School (Sydney, NSW) and Scotch Oakburn (Launceston, TAS) for a carnival of cricket. Our 1st XI were exposed to the highest possible standard of school cricket in this weeklong event and while results were not the primary focus, the quality of our performance very much was, both on and off the field. Playing against such strong inter-state competition provided a clear indication and example to our players of the approach that is required of them to perform at their best. This exposure, combined with the guidance and stewardship provided by Head Coach Tom Rutherford, resulted in a significant ‘shift’ in the approach of our players to the extent where they finished Term 1 undefeated. This included a win in the Collegiate Cup game v Scotch, the first since 2007, and while no little skill was required for the victory, the team and individual performances will long be remembered for its mental toughness.
Our Softball program is a bit of an enigma! Our two Middle and Senior school teams are among the most successful teams at Pulteney (Senior As 2nd on ladder, Senior Bs 1st on ladder) and have multiple students playing at representative level. However, we no longer field softball teams in the Prep school as there were not enough nominations. We are currently exploring options to address this to sustain this highly successful Pulteney sport.
Volleyball witnessed a significant change in direction in 2018 with Pulteney entering 3 teams in the Volleyball SA Junior League and then the Australian Schools Volleyball Cup in Melbourne. This huge improvement in performance and results may well explain the fact that in 2019 we now have 6 teams playing Junior League and attending the ASVC in December.
In Football, our Y8/9 team have 23 players in their squad after several years of struggling to field a team. Our Boys 1st XVIII have a 26 strong squad and our girls 34 (fielding 2 teams). Disappointingly we cannot field a Middle School Girls team this year.
Our Netball program has well in excess of 100 students playing and we have re-structured the program significantly in terms of teams and competitions entered. Under the direction and guidance of Michelle Den Dekker we look forward to a period not only of change but sustained success.
Our Middle boys’ Basketball program will field 4 teams in 2019, an increase on 2017 and 2018. Our senior boys’ will again field 3 teams this season. Our girls’ program is experiencing pressure with the nomination numbers being small.
There are many, many other examples of the positive outcomes that change is bringing in our traditional sports, however, when we also consider that Pulteney now has strong programs in Aikido, Fencing, Table Tennis, Gymnastics and Archery, the present is positive, and the future is bright.
Head of Sport