St Mary’s offers an excellent balance between sports, academic and cultural activities, critical in the development of young girls today. Our sporting facilities include a 50m swimming pool and state-of-the-art diving complex, AstroTurf, a new multi-purpose field, squash, tennis and netball courts, and an ergo room.
Girls are encouraged to participate in both competitive and non-competitive sport, and are provided with this opportunity by taking part in team and inter-house sport. The Senior Primary physical education lessons are utilised for coaching the sport relevant to the season, as well as traditional physical education. We believe that spending time on fundamentals such as movement, balance, core work, co-ordination and general strength is also very important. Each sport concludes with termly inter-house competitions.
The Junior Primary physical education lessons in the morning are divided between educational gymnastics and ball skills, which include basic netball, tennis and hockey skills. During the first and third terms, swimming is taught as we believe this is a vital life skill. The Junior Primary girls are offered afternoon co-curricular activities in the sport relevant to the season.
The athletics team, comprising girls from Grades 3 to 7, competes at various inter-school events during the season. The Grades 6 and 7s take part in all disciplines, which include 800m, 100m, 200m, hurdles, relay, long jump and high jump, and girls from Grade 3 to Grade 5 compete in the 60m, 80m and 100m sprints, long jump and relay events.
The annual Prestige inter-school athletics event is highly contested and all nine participating girls’ schools go head to head for first place. St Mary’s won this event in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
All the girls participate in the inter-house athletics, which marks the end of the season.
Diving requires a high degree of co-ordination, nerves of steel, grace and poise. Not every girl is cut out to be a diver, but all girls learn to do the basic dives during physical education lessons and are invited to attend training in the afternoon sessions with our expert coaches. We dive in the first and third terms, and competitions take place in the second half of the third term.
Diving at St Mary's has become very popular. We have excellent facilities with a 5m platform, wide enough for synchronised diving, two 3m springboards, two 1m springboards and a practice half-metre board. There are bubbles under each of the boards to ensure a safe and pain-free experience when learning new dives. The pool is 4.5m deep under all the boards, which more than complies with FINA standards. We have excellent dryland facilities, comprising two pit model trampolines with safety overhead spotting equipment.
St Mary’s divers regularly deliver winning performances.
Many girls ride at stables in and around Johannesburg. St Mary’s has a small team of girls from all grades who participate in the Equestrian Schools’ League run by the South African National Equestrian Federation (SANEF). Those girls who participate in the league are supported by the school.
The league competitions take place at Eaton Farm and there are a number of disciplines in which the girls compete: dressage, showing, equitation and show jumping.
Hockey and netball
Hockey and netball are popular winter sports at St Mary’s. In the Senior Primary phase, there are several teams per grade, and we do our best to arrange matches for all of them. Matches take place every Friday afternoon and we participate against most of the other independent schools in Johannesburg.
The inter-house competitions, at the end of the season, are always a highlight. All the girls are encouraged to play, and this provides an ideal opportunity for the players to enjoy themselves, in the company of their friends, in a less pressurised match situation.
Both sports, in the Junior and Senior Primary phases, are offered during morning physical education lessons, and as a co-curricular activity to all grades in the afternoons. We pride ourselves in offering a solid foundation for the players when they are younger, and as they progress so does the level of age-appropriate skills and expectations.
St Mary’s hosts the annual Grade 4 A to D and Grade 6 B and C hockey festivals. These festivals take place on Saturdays towards the end of the season.
Traditionally, the Grades 6 and 7 A teams play in the St Mary’s DSG tournament, which provides great exposure for our girls. They thoroughly enjoy the time away with their teammates and they learn many valuable lessons on the playing field.
In netball, we participate in the annual Holy Rosary Grade 3 to 7 A and B netball festival and St Mary’s hosts the Grade 6 and 7 C to F festival with St Peter’s Girls’ Prep hosting the Grades 4 and 5 equivalent.
Girls in Grades 5 and 6 are selected annually to attend netball camp, which helps them to prepare for the netball season.
Rhythmic gymnastics is an amalgam of gym, music, dance and the use of hand apparatus. It is the perfect combination of creativity, fitness and eye-hand co-ordination, and we use ribbons, ropes, balls, hoops and clubs as part of the routines.
Girls who are involved in this activity develop an appreciation for music and movement, and benefit from the healthy effects of aerobic exercise. Many St Mary’s girls have achieved provincial recognition.
We combine our sessions with girls from Waverley Girls’ High School, and these girls add a wonderfully vibrant dimension to rhythmic gymnastics.
Rowing (Grade 7)
Rowing is the ultimate team sport; everyone in the boat has a role. The younger girls are nurtured and inspired by the older girls and our rowing club is more than a club: it is a family. It is not necessary to have excelled at another sport to become a rower.
Rowing is a high school sport but, because the season starts in the third term (September), girls in Grade 7 are invited to join the rowing club. Their first experience of rowing is at the pre-season rowing camp, held during the last week of the August/September holidays. The season ends after the South African Schools’ Championships, held during the first weekend of March.
Training is both water-based, at Victoria Lake Club in Germiston, and land-based, in the school’s ergo room. Regattas are held on Saturdays and the club is dependent on the support of families for transport and involvement in the club.
We are extremely proud of our many successes since our inception as a rowing club in 1993. The premier schools’ event in the rowing calendar, the South African Schools’ Rowing Championships, has been won by St Mary’s on 20 of the 26 occasions we have competed. St Mary’s has won the prestigious Schools’ Boat Race 11 times in this event’s 17-year history.
Over the years, our girls have been selected to travel overseas as members of junior national squads, representing South Africa in countries such as Egypt, France, England, Belgium, China, Lithuania, Brazil, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan.
Squash is gaining in popularity in the Junior School. Inter-house squash has also been introduced in recent years.
Pupils from Grade 4 upwards are invited to join the St Mary’s squash club to learn the game. The squash club meets twice a week during term time. Once serving is mastered, a girl can advance to the intermediate section.
In the second term teams are entered in the Junior Schools League, and St Mary’s has often fielded as many as four teams in this league. A few girls have been eligible for provincial selection.
Mini squash for Grades 1, 2 and 3 is proving to be very popular.
Swimming is taken very seriously at St Mary’s as we feel that it is a life skill that needs to be mastered at an early age. Once a week, in the mornings, children in Grade 00 have fun morning lessons. Many staff members are in the pool with the children at any given time and this programme has been an outstanding success.
We encourage parents to have their children swimming, or at least water-safe, by the time they enter Grade 0.
All Senior and Junior Primary girls take part in swimming during their morning physical education lessons, and the team swimmers have two co-curricular slots per week. We offer swimming for non-team girls who wish to improve their stroke technique and fitness. At the end of the first term, every girl in Senior and Junior Primary takes part in the inter-house gala.
There are four teams at St Mary’s, allowing more than 150 girls to compete for their school every Friday afternoon. The girls participate competitively from Grade 3, and all events are run on a relay system.
Tennis is offered from Grades 1 to 7. The emphasis is on basic ball skills in Grade 1, progressing to the basic technique on all the strokes in Grades 2 and 3. Mini nets, smaller rackets and softer balls are used to encourage rallying.
Some players progress to a Grade 4 and 5 squad, which practises once a week. Friendly matches are arranged during the first and third terms. Other players are encouraged to attend social tennis, which is offered in the first and third terms.
St Mary’s enters four teams in the Junior League, which is played in the first and third terms. This gives many players a chance to play in matches. Apart from the league matches the players participate in the Junior School Singles and Doubles Championships, held in the third term.
St Mary’s participates in the Sun City Private Primary Schools Tournament, held during the August holidays.
Water polo (Grade 5)
Water polo is a physical game requiring fitness, ball skills and co-ordination. At St Mary’s we strive to develop the sport from a young age, and the girls are encouraged to work as a team and to motivate one another in the pool. Our teams range from U11 to U13. The young St Mary’s water polo players show much promise for the future.
The U13 team competes in various junior water polo festivals,including the U13 St Stithians invitational tournament.
In 2018 we introduced the U13 St Mary’s Water Polo Championship, and hope that this event will grow into a national tournament.