SHSK Thinks

Athletic development

June 2023

Looking back on five years of Athletic Development at St Helen and St Katharine

Joshua Wall, Head of Athletic Development & Health

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years, but from a blank slate, athletic development is now a key part of the health, well-being and performance offering here. Some of the highlights of what’s been built and implemented are:

  • Athletic development principles integrated into PE, looking at developing movement competency and strength to support engagement and confidence in physical activity.
  • An athletic development pathway of support from Year 7 through to Upper Sixth for individuals, sports and groups with sessions like the Year 7 Learn to Train or groups like the Developing Athlete Programme (DAP) for talented students.
  • An athletic development infrastructure and philosophy to guide decision making, help educate others (staff, parents, coaches, etc), and be visible for students’ understanding.
  • Development of five units of work in PE, in particular a completely new Health Related Fitness unit for Years 7-9 around understanding physical activity, its links to a healthy life and how to create a training programme.
  • And we’re also currently working on our injury and return to sport processes as the levels and demands of sport increase.

At the heart of this though are the students who we’ve supported and what it means for them, which are the true measure of our success so here is what they say…

“As someone who has never considered themselves ‘athletic’, going to the gym for the first time was quite a daunting experience. Not only were there so many machines and objects I had no idea how to use, but I also thought that exercise was something I wasn’t good at and was even a source of anxiety. I have discovered, though, that the gym isn’t something to be scared of. A programme of goals that were actually achievable put me at ease initially and since then, I have begun to feel healthier mentally, as well as physically. The feeling of pushing yourself and the sense of pride at seeing the progress you have made is a welcome relief from the academic pressures faced throughout the day. For me, the gym has become a way to escape the stresses of doing my A Levels and a part of my day I genuinely enjoy; words I thought I would never write! In hindsight, I only regret not trying it sooner and it has instilled in me the desire to continue even when I have left school.“ – Amelie, Upper Sixth – Amelie found personal exercise this year, and truly represents our aim of physical activity for all.


“During my time at St Helen’s, I have benefited hugely from the support provided by Mr Wall, the coaching staff and the exceptional sporting facilities as well. I have really appreciated the tailored programmes made by Mr Wall to improve my strength and conditioning. The focus on nutrition, injury prevention and loading has aided me in my netball performance and development throughout the past two years. In addition, the different programmes on offer such as sprint sessions and senior athletic development have really supported different aspects of my sport such as speed, agility, and power. Without the sporting support offered at St Helen’s, I believe I wouldn’t be where I am today, as not only have they assisted me physically, but also mentally in order to balance the pressures of academics with my elite sport.” – Phoebe M


“Being a young athlete at St Helen’s with the support given has been an invaluable experience. I have felt truly supported with mentorship to work towards my goals for each year, balance my training and academic workloads and advice in many other areas. This has helped me to strive towards what I am trying to achieve in sport whilst making sure I’m coping with all my other commitments.

Mr Wall made me a bespoke gym programme every half-term and under his guidance, we’ve managed training effectively whilst managing my time for academics. The S&C support has been really beneficial at improving the quality of my movement, while improving my strength and stamina to support my specific sports. The longer-term view for me as an athlete has meant I’ve continued to hit sporting PBs into Upper Sixth and I’m excited to continue post-St Helen’s.

The PE department have been so encouraging and supportive of my chosen sports both in and outside of school and I feel very thankful to have had this opportunity.” – Lottie J


“Sport and being a sport scholar have probably been my favourite parts of St Helen’s. I have always felt so supported, both with my physical development and in balancing and maintaining sport around my studies. Having had personalised programmes, written to target specifics in order to reach your goals has been amazing and integral to my development as an athlete, as well as always making going to the gym fun and motivating. Looking back, I believe I have made a lot of progress with it majorly being down to the constant help and motivation I have received, as well as it always being so easy to talk about any ambitions and concerns. I have always felt looked out for in my time at St Helen’s and am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given; it has cemented my love for sport and has enabled me to pursue all my aspirations.” – Amelie J

Joshua Wall, Head of Athletic Development & Health

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