Winter motivation: how to keep pupils motivated
The thwack of a football hitting your thigh during a wet PE lesson, or a netball bending back your yet to be warmed up fingers. All the little bumps and scrapes are ten times worse when cold, wet and not yet in the zone. No wonder getting children motivated in the winter months is that much harder!
Children are much less likely to spend time exercising outside of school activities as well. A US study suggested that activity levels in winter drop by as much as 15%. The evenings are shorter, and the prospect of playing indoors is much more appealing. This often corresponds to an increase in calories as well, especially around the festive season.
The first tip comes from counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip – make sure appropriate kit is provided! Thick socks, tracksuits and warm, waterproof footware are a must. Knowing they will be warm on the pitch from the start of the session will go a long way to motivate children to get out of the door.
Keeping students actively involved in sports in winter will produce a halo of positive effects on mood, attention in other classes and ultimately in academic achievement.
So how do we keep motivation high?
If you are playing outdoors, structure the sessions well. Sport specific warmups are an essential component. When the weather is cold, this is even more true. For most winter sports such as football, rugby, hockey and netball shuttle-runs done with increasing intensity are a great way to start. You can then focus on more movement specific warmups and light positional drills.
Have you noticed the more adept players are often most engaged on the field, are more likely to be active during the game and seem to be enjoying themselves more? It is no surprise, but it also means we need to focus in getting the whole group into that mindset. Having a team talk before the session or asking some of the natural leaders to help motivate the less inclined can go a long way.
It is also important to think about the mix of abilities. Some drills are better in mixed ability settings and some (especially in contact sports) are better separated.
Events as goals
A great way to maintain focus anytime of year is to have a clear goal. Sports events be that a tournament, or competition are the perfect way to do this. Specific timing for the goals is essential, with shorter term goals leading into a bigger goal. This could also build to an event or trip – a school sports tour for instance. Or if you have a school ski trip, then practice sessions on a dry slope in the term before are going to be more relevant than the term after. Seana Smith from Hello Sydney Kids suggests evoking a feeling of adventure amongst the students can really help to forge their collective identity and give them a great boost during the chillier months.
Most games that can be played outdoors can be played in some form indoors. Whether it is netball, or 5-a-side football you can find something that works. Winter can also be a good time to focus on less traditional sports. Climbing, ice skating swimming are all suited to the winter months. For the older students it can also be the perfect time to focus on a strength and conditioning phase in the gym.
Building towards an event can focus pupils (and teachers!). The time away is the icing on the cake. Children come back having experienced new things like exposure to a language, a new sport, breath-taking scenery or having made new friends. For some trips there will be the bonus of a boost to their vitamin D and improved fitness. If you are thinking of booking a school sports tour but are not sure of the best location or are stuck for ideas, our team can help make the trip memorable for all the right reasons.