Thank you to the teachers this National School Sports Week

As part of National School Sport Week we celebrate the hard-working teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty for their students.

Not every school gets the same opportunities, and not all pupils get the chance to try something different. Yet science teacher Irene Moynihan wanted to change that when she introduced the sport of lacrosse to Writhlington Academy near Bath.

You wouldn’t think lacrosse would be the first choice for an academy – and it’s not. In fact, until three years ago, Writhlington focused on more traditional sports such as rugby, hockey, basketball, netball and tennis.

But Irene Moynihan’s own experience as women’s captain at Bath Lacrosse Club gave her insights into the potential benefits for pupils of playing lacrosse. She did meet with some surprise when she first proposed to bring the sport to the school. “The rest of the teachers were intrigued to begin with,” she says. “But the PE teachers were keen and the others were very good, quickly coming around to the idea.”

One of the key factors in gaining wider approval was that an eclectic mix of students joined up to play lacrosse – and three years later, many are still playing. Some had been put off by the sometimes harsh competitiveness of traditional sports. “The mentality is not about winning so much,” says Irene. “It’s about supporting the team.” This spirit and sense of camaraderie is the crucial glue that binds the unit together.

The team accept they will never be contesting for major prizes, but rather than be discouraged, this recognition helps them enjoy each tournament for the merits of playing together. Their support also ripples beyond their own fans. “Lots of girls from the other  schools at the Rathbones National Schools Lacrosse Championships cheer us on,” says Irene. “There is a great sense of community at these events and it is lovely to get the support”

That’s not to say that there are not challenges. Getting funding can be incredibly tricky – transport costs, the gear and entrance fees all add up. But thanks to Irene’s diligence and graft the team has received  funding from Rathbones and the sporting charity Wesport as well as  crucial support from English Lacrosse.

There is also very much a hands-on approach to keeping the team running smoothly: including a lot of forms and admin, organising the kit, training and ferrying the pupils around. For the Rathbones Nationals Schools, Irene hires a minibus and as needed drives to the players’ houses to collect them in the morning if their parents aren’t able to get them to school, to ensure they won’t miss out on the opportunity to play.

The benefits for the players are immense. Not only do they gain tremendous physical and mental wellbeing from playing lacrosse – and enduring friendships – but they also learn how to play as a team and develop respect, confidence and resilience.  “They get to meet people from all walks of life and build up life skills that could be truly useful for them,” says Irene. “It’s lovely to see these kids growing into themselves.”

Thank you to Irene and all of the teachers who go the extra mile and beyond to ensure their students have the opportunity to grow and develop through sport.

Find more about Rathbones’ lacrosse involvement here.

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