Rio 2016 and Beyond – the Millfield Olympic Mission

Millfield is renowned for its strong sporting history.

Director of Sport, David Faulkner, looks into the school’s ongoing Olympic success, the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio and beyond with completion of the Millfield Sport 2016–2020 Strategy.

Joining Millfield in January 2013 I inherited a legacy of high-quality sport and performance, at some of the highest levels across a wide range of sports. It is Millfield’s performance on a regional, national and international scale that has gained such respect in school sport and beyond.

Our reputation is none more prolific and high profile than the school’s representation at the Olympic Games. Since London 2012, where Millfield was the highest represented school in the UK, we have made many enhancements to our training provision and the facilities we offer, and will continue to do so over the next four years guided by the Millfield Sport 2016-2020 Strategy.

Millfield’s Olympic legacy
Millfield has been represented at every Olympic Games since 1956 with 63 Olympians to date. Triple Olympic medallist Mary Bignal Rand’s gold, silver and bronze medals are on display in the school’s reception for pupils and visitors to enjoy and all past Olympians are listed in the Dining Hall, as a daily reminder to our pupils of what can be achieved.

What’s equally striking as the number of Millfield athletes who have reached the pinnacle of their sport, is the number of disciplines in which they have competed - from swimming to hockey, fencing to athletics. Range of sporting opportunity is one of the reasons why a school like ours can enjoy such an illustrious Olympic track record. We’re proud to offer a wide breadth and depth of sporting choice, supported by expertise and knowledge in coaching.

Sport specialisation has been a hot topic for debate in sporting circles in recent years. The concept of a year-round training programme in a single sport at a young age, with the exclusion of participation in other sports and activities, doesn’t always fit with Millfield’s mantra to discover and develop the potential within each pupil.

Our focus is always on ensuring positive experiences in a wide range of sports, which foster and maintain lifelong enjoyment of physical activity. Early specialisation can lead young people into sports that are not their own choice, often compelling them to remain in activities that are not motivating or suitable for their athletic abilities. Evidence also shows that those who specialise at a younger age rarely commit to the sport in the long term.

The more sports young people practise, the greater ease they feel when eventually selecting one sport that suits their interests and physical strengths. Millfield Sport aims for pupils to develop a large toolbox of movement skills whilst at school, which enables us to develop physically robust young athletes who possess skills that are transferable to any sporting environment.

Rio 2016
With the legacy of London 2012 and the two gold medals for Old Millfieldians still fresh in everyone’s minds, this year’s Rio Olympics is looking promising. Pupils, staff and Old Millfieldians are in the running for qualification and our facilities are being utilised by Olympians on their Road to Rio.

Millfield fencers, rowers, track and field athletes, hockey players and modern pentathletes are possible team members, with qualification events happening from April 2016 onwards. Millfield’s swimming legacy seems to be in good hands with Old Millfieldian James Guy and a further seven swimmers, both OMs and current pupils, on the potentials list.

The strength of our coaching teams, scattered with former Olympians, has also been acknowledged with several call-ups to Olympic coaching teams. Director of Swimming, Jol Finck, will be one of eight coaches on the Team GB Olympic coaching squad for swimming. Tristan Parris, Director of Fencing and Modern Pentathlon, has been working with Pentathlon Ireland leading up to the Olympics and has made a huge impact. One of the athletes he has worked with, OM Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe, has already qualified for the Modern Pentathlon at the Rio Olympics after becoming European Champion earlier this year.

Just like the Olympics, Millfield Sport runs on a four-year cycle. The 2016-2020 strategy outlines our aims over the coming years. Our Olympic medal journey started in Tokyo over 50 years ago, and already the school is looking ahead to Tokyo 2020 and our pupils who will be in the running for the next Olympics.

At the centre of the 2016-2020 strategy are four key objectives: to guide and support pupil lifestyle choices; to provide a wide range of sporting opportunities; to increase proactive engagement of Millfield Sport in the community and to identify and nurture talent potential.

At the heart of the strategy for the next four years are three pillars: foundation, development and talent potential. Those who we believe have the capability to move into elite sport, whether that be professional or those looking to continue their sport development through British or American universities, are supported by our Talent Potential Programme.

We coach all our pupils to be the best sportspeople they can be, both on and off the sports field. Everything we do here is working towards larger aims for individuals and teams in sport at all levels.

Reaching Olympic level is a rarity and few will reach that level of sporting glory. What we do at Millfield is create the appropriate environment for pupils to reach their full potential, through delivering the appropriate coaching at each level of their development, though there always comes a point where mindset becomes more important than talent.

Keep an eye on the website and Twitter feeds @MillfieldSport and @MillfieldSenior this August to keep up-to-date with how Millfield competitors perform at Rio 2016.