3 Niche Sports To Engage Students

PE class is often dreaded by many students: how can we change this?

As a PE teacher for many years I’ve seen generations of kids pass through the schools that I’ve worked in, each one of them offering their own unique challenges.

Whilst some kids look forward to PE each week, anticipating the opportunity to run around for an hour, many students find the entire experience impossibly challenging. There are many reasons why a child might dread their weekly hour of exercise. Overweight children often feel self-conscious undressing in the company of their peers, weaker students can might feel threatened in contact sport scenarios whilst some kids might simply believe exercise to be a waste of their time.

I’ve often found that the best way of engaging as many kids in a physical activity as possible is by introducing them to a sport that they haven’t played before. By teaching students a sport that’s new to them you place them on a level playing field of sorts. Whilst aspects like physical fitness and coordination will still have a bearing on an individual’s performance, the learning process serves as a common experience that all the kids can share, bringing them closer together and encouraging cooperation.

Thanks to the proliferation of live streaming many niche sports are starting to gain traction, so in the event of your students becoming interested in pursuing their new sport they can easily hunt down more information, footage and coaching tips using the internet.

These are the niche sports that might well galvanise the non-PE lovers in your class room:

Handball

It’s taken almost a hundred years, but Handball is finally getting the attention that it deserves. Invented by the Danish in the late 19th century, this contact sport is relatively simple to pick up (the rules are a cross between basketball and football) and is sure to please the less coordinated students in your group who have difficulty with dribbling a football or handling a rugby ball. Although matches can start out chaotic, after half a term of training this sport can often bring non-sporty individuals out of their shells.

Hacky-Sack

Although technically not a sport, Hacky-Sacks can be bought in large quantities for a small amount of money. There’s not much difference between a Hacky-Sack and a small beanbag other than the circular shape and the material that it’s made with – but it’s this shape that makes them so much fun to play with. You can start out by handing each student a sack to get to grips with, once they understand how to ‘keep-up’ the sack, you can start taking them away, forcing them to work together to improve their skills.

Table Tennis

I understand that many schools might not have the budget to invest in a space to hold permanent table tennis tables, but there are now plenty of temporary or fold-away options that can make this much maligned sport a real hit with your students. Once you’ve got a hold of the tables to play on you should be able to buy 30 table tennis paddles for a relatively good price from a sports wholesaler. Ping pong balls are easily damaged by overzealous players, but they too can also be procured en mass.

Financial Pitfalls Your Club Could Face

I speak from experience when I say that it’s not easy running any sports club.

With so many variables, risks and dangers coming a-cropper in the day to day running of a sport’s team, I thought I’d detail a few of the big ones you should look out for.

It doesn’t matter what the sport is; organising a disparate group of individuals to team together and meet once or twice a week can be next to impossible – and we’ve not even taken into consideration the financial side of things.

These are the most likely financial pitfalls that you could face:

Poorly Maintained Ground

If your ground is poorly maintained then you are putting yourself at financial risk. Like it or not, the members of your club don’t just play for you because they like your company, they play at your ground because you have facilities worth playing on. The maintenance of the ground is where a large proportion of their fees should be going on, it’s a point of pride for many players and also contributes to their enjoyment of the game. If you neglect your ground, your players will find a better club to play for and you’ll fold.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Sports can often be dangerous. Contact games like football or rugby can often be the epicentres of horrific injuries and serious accidents, which is why it’s crucial for your club to be completely covered by insurance at the start of each and every season. Remember that accidents can also occur off the pitch but still within the grounds. Overzealous drinking, raucous private parties and even slips in the shower should all be covered on your policy so that you can avoid any nasty legal surprises.

Theft and Loss

Athletic clubs are often chosen as targets by opportunistic thieves and burglars, in order to avoid becoming the victim of these criminals it’s a good idea to invest in a decent security system that can be easily operated by all club key-holders. Cash handling duties must also be followed strictly, the bar manager should deposit any takings from the bar into a secure safe at the end of each night and should have a clear line of communication with the club treasurer. As with any business, transparency is absolutely necessary when dealing with club finances.

Crumbling Club House

I’ve already mentioned the importance of keeping your ground in good shape, but the same also applies to your club house. In order to keep attracting new players you’ll need to make sure that your club house stays in good shape, that means staying on top of maintenance issues and updating where necessary and within your means. Fail to do so and your problems will compound forcing you to spend more money on surveying equipment and construction teams to sort out the mess.

Licensing Fines

Finally, one of the most common reasons for club closures is often because of a simple oversight in licensing. In order for your club to sell alcohol you need to ensure that you are licensed to so by the government and local authorities. Without the correct papers you will be liable to a hefty fine that could easily cripple any sports club for good. Make sure that your licenses are up-to-date and correct before the start of each season.

The Psychology of Patience in Cricket

How long are you willing to wait for a win?

My theory that long gaps between instances of success can contribute to a greater appreciation of a chosen sport.

I’ve had a lot of experience coaching sport in schools and, as a result, have had the opportunity to study the correlation between an individual’s success and their commitment to their chosen sport. As a teacher in a secondary school you can see improvement of performance over minutes, hours, days, terms and years. The passing of time can be easy for coaches and teachers to be rewarded, but the subjective act of learning can make progress feel like an arduous process for the student.

Committing to learning and enjoying sport relies as much on the consistency of the individual’s training schedule as it does on that individual’s biochemical dopamine delivery system. As with any behavioural pattern, in order for an individual to actively enjoy any kind of recreational activity (to the extent that they wish to repeat it) they need to enjoy what they’re doing. For most people enjoyment of a sporting activity is triggered by a successful instance. This can take many shapes from the mastering of a simple skill during a practice session to a goal scored or a match won. Put simply, as with anything else, humans are seekers of positive experiences: the more they succeed, the more likely they will be to seek further improvement.

Not every sport offers this kind of instant gratification, additionally, not all individuals will react to instances of success in the same way. In order to explore this further, let’s take a practical look at how gaps between instances of successes can serve to improve practice retention and overall performance.

I’ve often struggled to get my own students enthused about cricket and the stop-gaps between instances of successes can be seen as much of an impediment to thier progress as it could be an aid. Although cricket is often seen as dull or (at worst) boring by the uninitiated, the wide range of skills that the sport encompasses can make a training session a veritable gold mine of successful instances for newcomers.

Fielding drills offer numerous opportunities for learners to experience instances of success, especially for those that are new to the sport. The simple act of catching a ball can be enough to trigger a a successful instance, the same endorphin release can be stimulated with throwing drills such as this one below.

Most young people look forward to batting more than anything else, however it can be difficult to sustain a large group’s attention during this kind of training. Unlike fielding, it’s infinitely more difficult for a single coach to demonstrate the skills required for newcomers to learn batting. Equipment is required for each batsmen, as well as enough balls to keep students constantly playing for a stretch of 15 minutes (the optimum time for a student to learn a skill and exercise it in practice).


Cricket is often referred to as a game of patience. At a time where the sport has arguably never been more popular (millions around the world tune into the Indian Premier and twenty20 games in England consistently sell out throughout the Summer season) local club cricket is at an all time lull. Only by carefully managing successful instances can coaches hope to keep students engaged.