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Sports Scholarship Top Tips

Having organised, managed, and led the scholarship assessment day for a large independent school, I have unique insights into the requirements and expectations from a school’s perspective when applying for a sports scholarship. Furthermore, as a strength and conditioning coach, I have included what athletic qualities schools commonly look for when making decisions around potential scholarship candidates. Below is a summary of useful pointers for pupils looking ahead to assessment day to help you prepare as well as possible.

Don’t compare yourself to others

The purpose of scholarship assessments from a school’s perspective is to determine the strengths and potential of the candidates. This shouldn’t mean that you focus your energy on others in your cohort, however. There will be others with strengths in areas that you don’t, and you’ll be stronger in certain areas that they are not. Focus on the ‘controllables’ such as your own effort, being coachable and attentive, and a positive voice amongst the group. Distractions such as these will detract from your own enjoyment and performance on the day, so focus on you!

Format of the day

Typically the day will see an initial overview from the Director of Sport or possibly the Head, followed by an explanation of the structure and format of the day. There will be a range of assessments taking place over the course of a day or two, to determine your abilities in the major games played at that school, along with some form of athletic assessments too.

Understanding this general structure (although it varies by school), means that you’ll be able to prepare effectively for what is likely to happen on the day. When are there going to be more challenging elements? Where are your opportunities to shine?

An example might be something along the lines of:

Time & Activity

8.30am

Arrival, introduction and overview

9-10.30am

Sporting assessments such as hockey, rugby, netball, cricket and swimming broken into 2 groups (boys and girls)

10.30am

Break and snacks

11-12.30pm

Sporting assessments such as hockey, rugby, netball, cricket and swimming broken into 2 groups (boys and girls)

12.30pm

Lunch break

1.30-3pm

Athletic assessments including jumping, sprinting and movement quality

3pm

Break and snacks

3.30-5pm

Sporting assessments such as hockey, rugby, netball, cricket and swimming broken into 2 groups (boys and girls)

5pm

Debrief and time for home!

Prepare!

In order to perform at your best, preparation is key. This can come in many forms, from practicing your technical skills in the weeks leading into the assessments, to ensuring you’ve packed everything you need the day before. Feeling fully prepared will maximise your confidence on the day, unlocking your full potential so that you can shine. A few suggestions for preparing well include:

Get a great night’s sleep beforehand

Hydrate well and always carry a bottle with you

List out all your strengths on a piece of paper – it will give you an extra boost

Pack your bag and double check you’ve got everything you need

Take advice from your coaches in the weeks beforehand so you know what to focus on

Individually they won’t feel like much, but collectively all of these elements add up to make a massive difference.

Assessments

Based on the age of athletes in 11+, 13+ and 16+ assessments, schools are interested in the athletic potential that a candidate possesses. Schools may start by assessing your relative biological maturity (growth rate) compared to normative values for your age. This can be achieved by measuring your height, seated height and weight which will provide an indication of how fast you are growing.

Athletic assessments that may be included in a scholarship day include:

  • Vertical jump or broad jump (power)

  • 30m sprint (speed)

  • Movement assessment (including overhead squat, hop or lunge)

  • 505 agility test (change of direction)

  • Capacity tests including single-leg bridges, single-leg squats or single leg calf raises

  • Upper body assessments including pushups

Typically, these will be assessed in some form of carousel, working through the assessments in a logical manner. Take time to watch the techniques of other candidates in case you can pick up some helpful insights from those who have perhaps done the tests before.

How to perform at your best in the athletic assessments

The key things schools are looking for in these tests is both athletic ability and athletic potential. Ability on the day, and the potential to further improve over the course of your school career. Performance on the day can be improved by implementing the tips in this article, as well as investing time mastering the basics. The basics are sprinting, jumping, squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, bracing and rotating – the fundamental patterns inherent in all sporting actions. A qualified professional will be able to provide further guidance on how to improve in these areas and will give you a head start on other pupils your age. Some other tips include:

  • Learn how to perform a full warm-up without any guidance from a teacher or coach

  • Spend time practicing basic strength exercises using just your bodyweight

  • Sprinting and jumping are skills – practice them regularly!

  • Learn how to perform an effective sprint start – it will give you the edge

Be the full package

As has been eluded to already, it’s not just your sporting attributes that are being assessed by the staff on the day. How you interact with others, communicate and present yourself are all important. Be polite, attentive and open-minded whilst encouraging others. There will be times during an assessment where you make mistakes, this is completely natural as we’re all human. How you respond to these mistakes is infinitely more important that not making any at all.

Enjoy the experience

Ultimately if you can relax and enjoy the day, you will be far more likely to perform at your best. Scholarship assessment days are fantastic opportunities to express yourself in a range of sports, whilst meeting other like-minded athletes. Having a smile on your face won’t go unnoticed, and you’ll find yourself relaxing naturally by doing so.

If this has been useful then get in touch to find out how I may be able to support you in your preparations and on the day performance!

Henry

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