An athletics program that best serves kids

By February 8, 2019

We’ve designed the athletics program at Oak Meadow School around a very practical and wise concept… to do what best serves the learning needs of students. We do this by focusing on two guiding principles. First, we are committed to making sure every Upper Elementary and Middle School student at our school has frequent and meaningful opportunities to be part of an athletics program that includes league competition. Second, our school goes to great lengths to ensure that those students who are truly extraordinary athletes, in any sport, have the time and flexibility they will need to pursue their passion to the highest possible levels of achievement.

The basketball team in action at one of the big MAC games

In far too many schools, participation in meaningful, league-level competition is not possible for most students. Schools are driven by competitive demands that end up limiting or cutting students from participation, or reduce playing levels to the point where students spend most of the time sitting on the bench. That’s not what we do. We offer fully-participatory, multi-age, coed, inter-school athletic programs in soccer, basketball, and cross country, open to students in Upper Elementary through Middle School. Oak Meadow is part of the Massachusetts Montessori Athletic Conference (or big MAC) comprised of 12 Montessori Schools in eastern Massachusetts where schools are committed to “an atmosphere of spirited competition tempered by a cooperative attitude and upholding a sense of fair play and sportsmanship.”

Learning the importance of collaboration during PE

The school’s physical education teacher, Deb Larson, was instrumental in creating the big MAC conference, and she also works to create a great foundation for teamwork and sportsmanship through PE classes at all grade levels. According to Deb, “the emphasis is on strategy and teamwork, cooperative games, and team building exercises. The focus is on achieving a common goal by working together as a team.  We emphasize kindness, and good sportsmanship. Being an active participant with everyone always having something to contribute.” Our physical education program is also deeply rooted in Montessori philosophy, where physical activities that “include math and spelling, cultural activities, basic body movements and fundamental skills, fine and gross motor skills, locomotor and nonlocomotor movements.”

I strongly encourage every student, from Upper Elementary through Middle School, to participate in at least one team sport each year, or at a minimum, two team sports during their Upper Elementary and Middle School years at Oak Meadow. Students who participate on an athletic team gain valuable experiences. According to basketball coach, Kathleen Princi, “There is an awareness of individual progress as well as team growth and bonding. The focus  on healthy competition, collaboration, and sense of community enhances each child’s self esteem.” I also recommend participation in athletics because many of the finest high schools in this area require students to participate in athletics, at least at a minimal level. Getting first-hand experience in athletics at Oak Meadow is enormously helpful for students in preparation for the requirements of high school.

Our school also is uniquely adapted to meet the needs of exceptional athletes. According to Deb Larson, “we have had many amazing athletes come through OMS.  What I have found is that those student athletes are already involved outside of school on a much more intense basis.  Practice is held everyday after school and they travel on weekends.”  Kathleen Princi added to this, “There have been many students through the years that pursue their passions and compete at an elite level in their sports outside of school. Gymnastics, equestrian, hockey, figure skating, soccer, basketball, karate, track and field, volleyball, fencing are some of the sports where our students have competed and excelled at the highest levels. Students have competed regionally, nationally, and internationally. Oak Meadow provides the flexibility in terms of the schedule to support a child’s passion. It is an incredible opportunity for these amazing young athletes to commit to competing at this level and Oak Meadow is an integral partner in each student athlete’s success.”