How Sporting Pupils are nurtured at Forest School, by Ben Adams
19 Feb 2021
In our latest blog, we are delighted to hear from Ben Adams, Director of Sport at Snaresbrook's Forest School. The day school, located on the edge of Epping Forest, enjoys a partnership with The Lewin Clinic which helps students receive the quickest assessment and support as they recover from injury. Ben talks us through that relationship, and how the students - and at times staff - benefit while maintaining the school's sporting excellence.
School sport is, and always has been, an essential ingredient in independent Schools. Settings pride themselves on National Championship victories and names of notable Old Boys and Girls who have gone on to represent their sport at the highest level, line the corridors hoping to inspire the next generation.
Forest is no different and notable sporting Old Foresters include Nasser Hussain (England Cricket Captain) Quinton Fortune (Manchester United) and James Foster (Essex Cricket Captain). Interesting fact for you: Forest is the only School to have played in the FA Cup, which it did for four seasons, albeit in 1875-1879.
Our aim is to create an environment that provides for those pupils with the highest aspirations alongside a programme that encourages those pupils for whom sport and physical activity is recreational. Sport may not be for everyone, but physical activity and its many benefits absolutely is. Pupils at Forest have access to over five hours a week of structured sport and physical activity in their weekly timetable, and in addition there is a large programme of Saturday sports fixtures which sees anything between 25-30 teams playing home and away in a mixture of sports.
The introduction of sport scholarships in 2015 enabled us to attract even more of the most talented sportsmen and women in the area. It was at this point that we invested heavily in our provision, by bringing in additional expert PE staff, sports professionals for our major sports, as well as investing in improving the facilities. We currently have nationally ranked athletes, numerous county cricketers, academy footballers, county swimmers and regional netballers.
Our relationship with The Lewin Clinic is largely there to support the Sports Scholars and ensure that they minimise any time off the field due to injury. Since our affiliation, a number of our students (and staff) have benefited from the expertise of Colin and Gary, in order to get a quick diagnosis of their injury and put them on the path to recovery. More often than not, this has led to pupils spending less time injured than they previously would have done.
Colin and Gary also presented at our annual parent conference, advising parents what to look out for, in terms of early onset of injury, as well as simple things they can control such as diet and sleep to support their child achieving their potential. Over 20 of our Sports Scholars have visited the clinic since our partnership began. Often the pupils attending the clinic have issues relating to a change in their load (obviously tricky during the lockdown periods) and these can often be exacerbated by the pupil being in their 'peak height velocity' or growth spurt.
Conditions such as Sever's Disease and Osgood-Schlatter's are common, and often a modification of load and good education is enough to settle symptoms gradually. Often the diagnosis is key to reassuring everybody involved that the issue is nothing too concerning, and we often try to keep the injured pupils doing as much as possible within the advice from the clinic. We have had a pupil diagnosed with “little leaguer's elbow” which can be brought on by poor throwing technique, or throwing overload. Keen cricketers can often suffer from this as their training load increases. This issue has now seen an intervention put in place to improve the pupil’s technique moving forward, highlighting the importance of communication between medical and coaching.
We have had one boy diagnosed with medial tibial stress syndrome, which can be a precursor to a stress fracture, and this early diagnosis and training change has proved key to ensure our pupils avoid serious injury.
In order to maximise the impact of the outstanding medical care, information is passed on to our Strength and Conditioning coaches and Heads of Sport, so that they can adjust any programmes to cater for the injured individual. This whole team approach has proved incredibly successful in ensuring our athletes get back to fitness as fast as possible. Wherever viable we try to avoid 'rest' as the answer to the issue. Good conversations with the clinic allow us to modify the pupil's load as opposed to just stopping them, and the outcome is generally better and quicker.
Some pupils need one visit for diagnosis/advice and some return for a longer rehab programme depending on their issues, but the education involved is key so that parents, teachers, coaches and most importantly the pupil, are all fully aware of what is going on and what the expectations are around their recovery.
As Independent sport continues to grow at a rapid rate, the demands placed on the most sporty pupils is only going to increase. Managing load is going to become a crucial factor in ensuring young athletes stay injury free and having access to the knowledge and experience that The Lewin Clinic provide, is going to be of huge benefit to our most active pupils.