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Redefining education through sport

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Leigh Sales, right, hosted the Architects of Change conference. Photo: David Swift
Leigh Sales, right, hosted the Architects of Change conference. Photo: David Swift

Catholic Schools (SCS) has highlighted the “73,000 sports stars” in their ranks at a recent event.

Leigh Sales AM hosted the Architects of Change conference on 8 November, where SCS educators and community leaders were provided with a unique opportunity to discuss the redefining of learning, sport, music, arts and more.

Damien Kerr, SCS Director of School Support, explained that all 73,000 students have “ample opportunities to explore everything that sport can bring”.

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NSW Premier Chris Minns’ keynote highlighted how SCS sport allows for students to develop necessary “knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes.”

And paralympic gold medallist Louise Sauvage OAM, the 41st Legend of Australian Sport, spoke about her experiences trying to find meaning in sport for reasons beyond fame.

She said the biggest virtue she learned from her sporting career is that “accepting people for who they are is the most important thing.

Now in her role as a coach of athletes, Sauvage explains how “participating in sport has made them better at everyday obstacles they’ve had.”

Kerr drew attention to the new all-abilities competition, which has seen a major uptake from the community and students alike.

In exploring the success of a vision-impaired student in the sport of goalball, Kerr notes how “SCS has the only unified all-abilities underage sporting opportunity in the country,” thus allowing students to embrace uniquely exclusive opportunities to engage in sport.

Panellist Anna Turnball, dedicated educator and advocate for inclusive sports education, highlighted how an all-abilities sports competition poses benefits for all students.

She notes that the competition provides the opportunity for able-bodied students to actively and fairly participate with their disabled peers.

She explained how “we’re uniting children with disabilities and their mates. We all know within Australian culture you want to play sports with your mates.”

“Now every term there is a competition for students with and without, physical and non-physical, visible and invisible so that they can be challenged at a level consistent with their ability,” Kerr added.

A challenge that was essential to address in order to centralise the SCS sporting network was the “tyranny of distance” according to Kerr.

Creating a school sporting competition in which no school would have to travel further than 30 minutes has resulted in greater success, as “we would yield a greater benefit if we worked together,” he said.

Morgan Turinui, former professional rugby union and current sports commentator for Stan Sport and Channel Nine, spoke about the importance of central locations for breeding sporting success and providing as many students as possible with access to competitive sport.

“An accident of geography … meant that I was on the archetypal pathway for rugby union without even realising it,” he said.

Speaking further about the advances in the SCS system, Kerr highlighted the capacity SCS has to develop the myriad of skills held by talented students in the system.

“We have the scale to make something great, we have the talent in our ranks, we have the willing staff members and we have the support of the families,” he said.

To help this proposed greatness come to fruition, SCS has most recently entered a new and exciting partnership with Sydney FC to help aid and pursue the most talented students in football.

“We have kids in our system who are going to be standing on the podium at the Olympic Games. We have others who are going to be making careers in the sports realm, we have kids who are one day going to light the world up with excitement,” Kerr said.

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