Pushing the boundaries


Girls benefit from “rough and tumble” sports, and Mentone Girls’ Grammar School is embracing this idea.

As more opportunities become available for young girls and women to participate in traditional male-dominated sports, we are witnessing some fantastic opportunities for individual success and achievement. Just look at the Australian women’s national soccer team who enjoyed tremendous victory at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, or AFL launching a women’s league in 2017 to boost elite female football.

In light of these exciting opportunities, Mentone Girls’ Grammar has introduced a Sports Excellence Camp, a selective-entry program designed to hone the skills and competitive edge of promising and dedicated sportswomen. Newly appointed head of sport, Libby Lewin, manages the innovative program and believes that the benefits of sport are plentiful, showcasing a foundation of positive values.

“In particular, ‘rough and tumble’ sports allow girls to push their own boundaries, be challenged and expose them to the exciting reality of being athletes and women in sport,” says Libby. “However, conscious of the lack of media attention and unequal pay that professional female athletes receive, it’s imperative for us to highlight female sporting role models and provide girls with a wide range of sporting activities, such as football, soccer, basketball, hockey and martial arts. In addition, our beachside location means our students also have exposure to triathlons and surf lifesaving, both of which challenge the body and mind.

“We firmly believe that sports can boost girls’ confidence and self-esteem, encouraging them to tackle both physical and mental challenges. It provides them with new-found knowledge about building upon their own characteristics and asserting their own power.”

As quoted in British newspaper The Telegraph, Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, says rough and tumble sports provide an excellent way for girls “to conquer fear and overcome failure”.

“One thing schools can do is to encourage girls to hurl themselves into activity, not worrying about model femininity,” explains Helen. “It’s a bit about reclaiming the idea of fitness as being a good thing for girls.”

Recently, there has been significant buzz around inspirational social media campaigns, such as Like a Girl, which celebrate women in every way and prove that judgement is a barrier that can indeed be overcome. These campaigns emphasise the importance of encouraging and empowering girls to stay active and focused, find their inner strength and, ultimately, have pride in being female.

Libby strives to foster not only a culture of excellence but, most importantly, a culture of participation at Mentone Girls’ Grammar by encouraging students of all ages and fitness levels to participate in some form of sport or physical activity.

“When I hear students saying, ‘I’m not a sporty kid’ or ‘I need to focus on my studies’, I explain to them that sport is for everyone and it actually helps with academic studies because the body becomes fitter, and likewise the brain,” says Libby. “It also teaches students the importance of time management, resilience and stress management.”

Team games are also particularly advantageous to girls in their physiological, social, emotional and school functioning. “Our students view competitions on and off the field as opportunities to learn from their success and failure,” says Libby. “I love nothing more than to see the team spirit and sheer determination of our ‘Mentone Meerkats’ that develops when a team is losing a match and the euphoria when they manage to bounce back, or at least when they know they’ve put in 110 per cent.

“To learn basic skills and motor coordination, it is really important for girls to begin some form of physical education at an early age, laying a solid foundation and providing the bench strength for sport and life. We encourage our students to be active, to take on new challenges and continually develop their skills. For us, this begins in our Early Learning Centre with a focus on basic skills and motor coordination such as throwing and catching, bouncing, kicking and striking.

“At the senior end of the school, in addition to our rigorous, competitive sporting program, we are exposing our students to a range of recreation activities that promote our healthy body, healthy mind philosophy, encouraging students to relax, have fun, de-stress and, most importantly, ‘disconnect’ from a hyper-connected world. They also learn about how the body works, how to prevent injury, the principles of good nutrition and how to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

Due to its vast reach and unparalleled popularity, sport can provide the opportunity to develop new friendships at any stage of your life, whether it’s at school, university, in the workplace or working overseas. In many ways, sport provides life-enriching experiences and benefits body and mind, increased energy levels and a zest for life. As Nike says, “Just Do It!”

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