The original Five Star Award scheme was first introduced into schools in the 1960s by the Amateur Athletics Association (Tom McNab, then National Coach for the south) and was undoubtedly the most successful track and field award scheme ever devised, both educationally and financially, and also one of the best from any sport. It reached every secondary school in Britain and both paid for itself, attracted commercial sponsorship (Walls) and funded many other development schemes, including one that brought Daley Thompson to the attention of top coaches. It is still remembered with affection by many ex schoolchildren today.
From an educational perspective 5 Star combined fun, simplicity, measurability and personal improvement – learning by doing. With the addition of 5 Steps (simple steps to technical competence in each event) via the 5 Star 5 Steps website, learning can be significantly enhanced and endlessly built upon by and for all age groups. Above all this approach engages with children’s natural spirit of enquiry – about the self, the body, the mind and their interaction with the world. What greater gift can any sport provide for children?
Track and field is often seen as a technically complex sport requiring sophisticated, expensive facilities and equipment. For beginner coaches or teachers without a personal background in the sport its easy to get blinded by science. But inf act children learn best through enjoyable games and activities which are ethically based on personal improvement, collaboration and mutual encouragement, which also provide simple technical basics – with good motor-skills development as a by-product. 5 Star 5 Steps allows primary teachers, non-athletics specialist secondary PE teachers and beginner coaches to deliver skills building blocks with confidence in an enjoyable and stimulating manner.
A Word About Competition
5 Star 5 Steps invites children and young people to compete against themselves – “how far, how high, can I do better?” Comparing your best time with those of your friends is inevitable and so, in time, is the opportunity to compete formally at intra and inter school or club level.
Research on the psychological aspects of sport tells us that the most helpful approach to competition in terms of long term involvement and healthy development is to be intrinsically motivated. In other words the reward for competing is internal to ourselves – we do it for enjoyment, fulfilment and to achieve. It is important that teaching and coaching “climate” reflects this so that children and teenagers can progress, if they wish, to formal inter-school or club competition with self-confidence and composure. A mature approach to competing does not include seeing winning as “success” and losing as “failure”, but as an opportunity to formally test and then analyse your performance progress against the performances of others.
The mental skills and values involved in learning to perform well under the pressure of competition are crucial skills for life and contribute to rounded personal resilience. This is an aspect of sport participation that has been misunderstood in the past, but recent research has highlighted specific mental skills and how they can be taught and transferred to other challenging areas of life. Some thinking skills are included in the Phase 1 (years 5, 6 and 7) 5 Steps notes online, and mental skills will be examined in more detail in Phase 2 (years 7, 8 and 9.)