The benefits of exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle are well documented. School sport is a great way for students to stay active, make friends and have fun. From hockey to netball, tennis and athletics, the opportunity for young people to become involved in sport are wide ranging. Sport can give students a break from study, helping them to relax and unwind.
Government health website, healthdircect.gov.au points to several benefits of exercise. Exercise facilitates the release of chemicals like endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which improves a person’s mood. Regular exercise can also help to reduce stress, and promote better sleep, which are both important for developing minds and bodies.
Participation in school sport can help build friendships and foster a sense of belonging within the team, and the school community. Connectedness and sharing experiences is important for young people, and helps to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Through sport, students may interact with people outside their usual social circle, helping to broaden their friendship group and expose them to new people, ideas and interests.
As well as boosting their physical fitness and wellbeing, participation in extra curricular activities, like sport, helps students develop a range of skills. Time management, teamwork, personal responsibility, as well as a sense of belonging and shared identity within the team and the school can be fostered. School sport can also help to develop a love of sport and exercise more broadly, setting students up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
To help keep students excited about school sport, it is important to have the right equipment and playing surfaces. Students who practise and train on the same type of surface on which they will compete may perform better. A familiarity with how the surface will behave will provide a competitive advantage. Providing the right playing surface may also minimise injuries, as surfaces are tailored specifically to the activity they are being used for. This is particularly important for young, developing bodies.
Installing and maintaining suitable playing surfaces can also demonstrate to students the school’s commitment to school sport, and the pride the school places in its sporting teams. Providing an elite level surface raises the esteem of the sport, and may encourage greater student participation. Suitable playing surfaces may also make your school an attractive venue for hosting inter-school competitions. This will again raise the profile of the school and its sporting teams, and may help generate extra revenue for the school through court hire.
Design options are available to add some fun to your playing surfaces. Consider making a focal point of your surface, giving your school community something interesting to look at even when a game is not being played!
Is it time to install or upgrade playing surfaces at your school? We asked the experts for their advice.
Grassports Australia Sales Manager, Ash Whitfield, highlighted several considerations when upgrading a sports surface. “Consider the longevity of the product you are putting in, and the use of Australian made products which are built for our harsh climate. Think about asking outside user groups to pay for ongoing maintenance costs of the facility, and funding future upgrades,” Mr Whitfield said. “Schools should also plan what the area will be used for as there are different pile heights and regulations for each surface and sport.
“We hear often from schools that where we have upgraded the old, warn bitumen to a brand-new sports surface, staff and student participation has increased dramatically. Children are drawn to the to the area with its bright and colourful lines and are more energetic and active during play times.
“Maintaining your surface frequently is vital to ensure optimal playing characteristics are preserved and the longevity of the surface is assured. Towards the end of the surface life span it is wise to start planning for an upgrade.
“No two sports facilities are the same, so a tailored maintenance plan helps ensure a safe facility, always in optimal condition. It is important to maintain and monitor the surface quality with full reports detailing the facility condition and works that have been carried out.”
SportEng CEO Jarrod Hill said durability of the playing surface and longevity of the underlying pavement or profile should always be considered when upgrading a sports surface. “The correct surface selection is important to ensure it is fit-for-use. This will often dictate the type of pavement or profile it is installed on. The underlying pavement/profile needs to address any constraints that the site might have, for example, non-favourable ground conditions, and have a strong relationship with the playing surface and associated drainage infrastructure to ensure it has a minimum design life of 20 years.
“Typically, schools choose either synthetic grass or acrylic for use on multi-use Fields of Play. Both are durable and require low maintenance compared to natural turf. Synthetic grass surfaces can replicate the playing conditions of natural turf. These systems typically adhere to the performance requirements of a sport governing body such as the AFL, FIFA, etc.
“An acrylic surface is the most durable surface that can be considered for a school multi-use area. It requires the least amount of maintenance compared to other surfaces, and can be readily rejuvenated by recoating with acrylic.”
Mr Hill said regular visual inspection of the surface to identify potential issues is important, helping to fix small issues before they become larger ones. “Ultimately the surface performance will be heavily reliant on the product itself, the initial construction, the level of use and maintenance and the condition of the underlying pavement/profile. Getting it right the first time is paramount. Failure to address these areas at the time may lead to ongoing issues with the surface.”