In recent years, both schools and parents have been paying more attention to physical education, entitling students with a wider range of opportunities. We paid visits to several schools in Beijing, to learn about their different PE curricula to give our readers some insight into the wide variety of sports being offered at some of Beijing’s top schools.
Keystone Academy: Wushu
Since their founding, Keystone Academy began their wushu classes as an independent course for students from preschool to Grade 10. Anyone interested can attend the class no matter if you are a newbie or have martial arts-related experience.
For students from Grade 1 to 7, wushu is a compulsory class held weekly and runs for 40 minutes. For those from Grade 8 to 10, they can choose wushu as an elective, where it runs for 80 minutes without after-class training.
These martial arts classes at Keystone focus on boxing and the knowledge of related equipment rather than competition. There are three professional coaches responsible for teaching wushu, and the class content includes basic skills, boxing movements, and weapons training.
“Before every new class, I demonstrate the various movements and explain their origins to my students,” said Jim Mao, a martial arts teacher at Keystone.
“I hope that the students can reap more confidence and courage from learning martial arts. I often praise and encourage them because I know it’s not easy for them to finish all the movements smoothly and in front of other students”.
Apart from courses in wushu, Keystone founded their own martial arts group with nearly 60 students ranging from Grade 1 to 10. The group takes part in performances both in and out of school, and is expected to enter some big competitions in the future.
There are two ways to enroll students into this wushu group. The first one is by the recommendation of these martial arts teachers, based on students’ performance during class. The second way is through testing which is open to all students interested. Aspects such as their overall body condition, flexibility, and balance serve as the basis for this selection process.
What benefits can children have from practicing martial arts?
By practicing martial arts regularly, students can improve their body strength, flexibility and balance, and what’s more, self-confidence and develop willpower.
Do students often get hurt when practicing martial arts? How can you avoid this from happening?
It happens. Students usually get hurt from misusing the equipment or spraining their ankles from not warming up enough. Luckily, there is a medical center in the school providing 24-hour first aid to students.
“I stay with students to comfort and calm them when they get injured, while also trying to distract them from the pain. That’s very necessary especially for younger kids”, said Mao.
Jim Mao tailors different warm-ups according to the class content, trying his best to protect students from some of the risks that come along with martial arts classes.
Beijing Huijia Private School: Ice hockey
Earlier this year, a hockey stadium made to international standards was constructed at Beijing Huijia Private School, while ice skating also became available as a new PE course. The course is compulsory for all Huijia students, and there will be 18 classes available every semester from now on.
Generally, kids over the age of three are able to learn basic skating movements, and can usually begin doing ice hockey at four. Besides enjoying the sport of hockey, it can also help improve personal skills and teamwork.
Besides skating, Huijia also added inline hockey as a compulsory PE course. Inline hockey is similar to ice hockey in that the rules and basic skills remain the same, but it’s more convenient for students since no specific equipment is needed. Students can register for the hockey class and learn it after school. Hockey coaches at Huijia are all Canadian Hockey Association members with rich teaching experience. Registered students receive two classes a week, with each running for 90 minutes. Standout students will be selected to join the school’s hockey team, and receive two-hours of professional training every Friday. One month before competitions begin, the training will be increased to two times a week.
Like other PE courses, hockey practice consists of warming-up, stretching, and skills training. Hockey training focuses on skating skills, goalkeeping, dribbling, and catching and these are all practiced in separated groups according to students’ level.
“So usually we need three coaches for a class of 20 students,” said Jack, one of the hockey coaches. “The key point is to stimulate the students’ interest in hockey. We often show students professional hockey competitions, and organize small events for them to watch live hockey games, improve their sensibility and balance through some related games, and encourage them regularly.”
In addition, Huijia plans to add hockey and figure skating as extra elective courses in the near future, which will allow it to be introduced to more students.
How to avoid injuries during hockey practicing and competition?
Huijia has a “movement risk prevention and accidental injury response manual,” giving instructions about potential accidents during a variety of sports. During the teaching process, the coach needs to check in advance to make ensure a safe teaching environment. Additionally, students do proper warm-up stretches, and the class is arranged according to the students’ level. The Red Cross is invited to Huijia every semester to give all coaches and stadium staff training in first aid basics. Students who get injured will be given first aid immediately and sent to the school clinic if necessary.
Safety equipment including helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and gloves are used to protect students. The faculty help young kids learn about and properly dress in their safety equipment. Meanwhile, the coach will also educate students how to protect themselves by adjusting the movements and taking full advantage of their gear. Kids are also forced to follow the standard hockey rules to avoid unnecessary accidents.
Western Academy of Beijing: Rugby and baseball
Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) students have opportunities starting in Elementary School to start playing a variety of sports. WAB also offers programs in rugby and baseball, as well as basketball, volleyball, and much more starting in Middle School. However, these are not classes. Sports are done after school and on the weekend as extracurricular activities.
Different sports require different training regiments. Most sports practice three times a week and compete once or twice per week, depending on their schedule. A sports season runs for about 3-4 months at a time at the Middle and High School levels, except some teams which require year-round training.
Chris Clark said, “At its foundation, a lot of coaching requirements are related to general fitness and athleticism – building strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, focus, determination, and other skills. Coming together to work with the whole team at practices, as well as participating in drills to help with specific skills related to the sport, are important for building confidence and growing closer as a team. It’s not just about improving as an individual.
Repetition is key to a player’s development in a certain sport, refining and mastering a specific set of skills related to the game. And of course, especially in physical sports, it’s important to teach fundamentals so that the athletes can perform them properly, have fun, and avoid the risk of injury.
Of course, winning is one of the main goals in competitive sports, but it’s not everything. A coach can’t just tell an athlete that they should want to win and expect it to happen. The motivation to win comes from building a culture of the team wanting to be its best, having the desire to excel and be the best you can be, and having accountability among your teammates. It involves a certain amount of pride for the colors on your uniform and the name or logo on the front of your jersey, the desire to represent your team. The desire to win cannot be forced upon an athlete; it grows naturally from commitment, dedication, perseverance and the will to be one’s best self for a purpose larger than an individual’s own pride.”
How do you avoid sports-related injuries?
The most important measure to prevent injury is proper preparation. In rugby, that means learning how to tackle properly and how to be tackled properly to avoid injury. In baseball, that means learning to slide into the bases, how to throw the ball and swing the bat. It means getting the proper equipment for all athletes. It means training them properly to take care of their bodies and understanding the physical toll that athletics can have on a person – staying hydrated, stretching, working out, practicing, and being aware of what your body is telling you. WAB has an internationally certified athletic trainer that works full time on campus to help student-athletes with injuries and educate students, parents and coaches on topics related to physical health for athletes, including dieting, development and wound treatment. WAB has strict protocols in place when it comes to dealing with injuries, often partnering with local international hospitals and clinics to have people on site in case of emergency.
What do you think the students learn from playing competitive sports?
There is no limit to what a student-athlete can learn from playing competitive sports, and I truly mean that. Of course, they will learn techniques about the game and specific skills, but there is so much more to the culture of sport that comes with competing. Students learn what it means to be committed to something larger than just their own interests. They learn about teamwork, communication, determination, hard work, a lifestyle of physical fitness, friendship, perseverance – and maybe most importantly of all, how to have fun.
Check out WABX website (www.wab.edu/experience/wabx.com) to read more about athletics at WAB.
Beijing City International School: Non-traditional sports
Frank Carter, physical teacher at Beijing City International School (BCIS) said, “My philosophy on teaching Physical Education is to try and expose the students to as many different sports as we can in the hope that they find a sport that they love and can enjoy lifelong participation in, which in turn will lead to a healthier and more sociable life. So at BCIS, I teach a very wide range of sports from traditional sports like swimming, football, and gymnastics, to sports that maybe seem not so traditional like ultimate frisbee, handball, and kayaking.”
“Kayaking was introduced this year as a part of our water safety unit in our swimming classes. As a department, we are always trying to think progressively about new ways to challenge or excite our students through innovative learning experiences. We decided that we should think of areas that our students might need real life water safety experience. We decided that the introduction of kayaks would bring a new dynamic to water safety, preparing the students for other types of water activities instead of just swimming. We were mindful of the many parks in Beijing that have boats on lakes and that many of our students go on vacations to beaches where people are able to hire small paddle boats as well.”
These kayaking classes are built into our water safety unit which happens towards the end of the school year which means that most students are proficient swimmers or at least very comfortable in the water with a flotation device. We have used the kayaks with grades 1 to 5, but hopefully will use it with high school students next year. Students will have three or four 40-minute classes using the kayaks to learn about the basics of operating them safely.
The main focus of our kayaking lessons is to teach pupils how to enter and exit a boat from the side of the pool, exiting and reentering the kayak in the water, and safely moving the kayak around the pool. Teamwork and communication are key parts of this exercise as kayaks can tip over if weight is not distributed evenly when entering or exiting. After demonstrations by teachers, students must communicate and work together to make sure that they can enter and exit the kayaks safely. Pupils are supervised at all times to ensure the kayaks rarely tip over. All pupils wear lifejackets even if they are proficient swimmers as a part of our focus on safety, showing them how to wear a life jacket and how it feels to be in the water wearing one. Apart from the safety aspects pupils enjoy learning how to paddle and steer the kayaks around the pool. We have both single headed paddles and double-headed paddles for the students to try. The real benefit for the pupils is developing communication skills, teamwork, and leadership abilities in a new and exciting environment. By thinking outside of the box and using kayaks to facilitate these learning opportunities, they are overcoming new challenges, using core social skills in a totally different environment than they are used to. Allowing students to try different activities puts them outside of their comfort zone and helps to spark passion for sport and physical activity.
How to ensure students’ safety during canoeing classes?
Obviously providing new and exciting opportunities like this comes with different safety considerations for the teachers. Like I previously mentioned all students are required to wear a lifejacket even if they are proficient swimmers. There are always at least five members of staff in the class, on the poolside communicating with and observing students, in the boats helping students or in the pool to help pupils in and out of the kayaks safely. For the younger grades, teachers are in the boats with the students. Although smaller kayaks can tip over, our wider kayaks are very difficult to actually tip so students are not heavy enough to cause this to happen.
Kaiwen Academy: Tennis
The tennis course is open to all KWA students. Students are arranged in separate classes according to their age and ability. The class is given once a week, but those who want to practice more can also attend after-school training sessions.
Generally, the age of seven is a threshold period for children to start basic sports training. When training children around the age of seven, more attention should be paid to basic skills like sensitivity, balance, and speed. It’s better not to give children expertise tennis until they are over seven. Too early and training may not help children to perform well but cause injury.
Tennis classes at KWA are provided by China Open coaches. Usually, one coach is responsible for four students and consists of learning fundamentals and match play. Teachers also arrange competitions and some related games, in the hope of improving students’ skills in a more fun and efficient way.
“We try to train students through various methods, such as leaving space for students to question and find the solution out by themselves; experiencing different roles in the game to enhance awareness and team spirit, and encouraging students to teach and share with each other. Actively participating in the class definitely helps students improve in a more effective way. Scoring of sports courses at KWA are based on comprehensive records and professional rating systems, that not only take into account students’ playing skills but also their moral behavior on the court.”
In addition to this, KWA founded a school tennis team that receives extra professional training twice a week after school. Only students with over 3.0 NTRP level are qualified to be a part of the team. Miscellaneous elements like the ability to maintain self-control and the student’s sense of responsibility will also be taken into consideration when the coach selects team members.
How does KWA protect students from injury when playing tennis?
Every time before the class, coaches give guidance to students about how to avoid injury. Before and after the class, the coach will also lead students in some stretches in order to relax their muscles. Essential first aid items are always prepared in the sports stadium for emergencies. All coaches at KWA have received international standard first aid training, and are able to give in-time medical aid to students.
And also, it is essential for students to stick to the rules, don’t make movements or use skills that are not suitable for your playing level, and stay concentrated.
What benefits can students reap from playing tennis?
Playing tennis will help students improve both physical fitness and mental health. Physically, students can enhance their body strength, balance, agility, and flexibility; psychologically, they are cultivated with better focus, endurance and determination, qualities from which they will not only benefit when playing tennis but their whole life.
Photos: Courtesy of Keystone Academy, Beijing Huijia Private School, WAB, BCIS, and Kaiwen Academy
This article appeared on p34-39 beijingkids November 2017 issue.
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