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 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.
St Mary’s has a vibrant team of girls from all grades who participate in the equestrian schools’ league.
The South African National Equestrian Schools Association (SANESA), is an interschool sport association which falls under the department of Basic Education and is recognised by both the South African Equestrian Federation (SAEF) and SASCOC.
Qualifying competitions take place throughout the year where points are accumulated for the school. Riders participate in qualifying rounds before being selected to ride at the regional qualifier which then selects them to ride for their province.
Competitions take place at Eaton Farm and Kyalami Equestrian Park (KEP) and include a variety of disciplines including dressage, equitation, show jumping, a variety of showing classes, eventing, endurance, vaulting, mounted games, western riding and saddle seat to name a few.
The girls ride individually at various stable yards and the school supports those who participate at SANESA. Our girls are very competitive and consistently place highly in the league.
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 Saturday morning and we compete 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.
In previous years, in hockey, the Grade 6 and 7 A teams played in the St Mary’s DSG tournament. This year, 2023, both teams will be having a pre-season tournament at home where a handful of teams will come to participate in a friendly tournament. Playing against stronger opposition and teams that we do not often play is a great way to prepare for the season ahead.
In netball, we participate in the annual Holy Rosary Grade 3 to 7 A and B netball festival, the St Stithians Sports Festival, the St Andrew’s Grade 7A netball festival and the Grade 7 A participated in the All Girls Netball Festival which was hosted by Herschel Girls School.
We also send selected girls to attend the D13 U12 and U13 netball trials.
Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport in which gymnasts perform on a carpeted floor with apparatus including ribbons, balls, ropes, hoop and clubs. The sport combines elements of gymnastics, dance and calisthenics. Girls involved in this activity develop an appreciation for music and movement. The sport combines creativity, fitness and eye-hand co-ordination.
The sport was first recognised in 1963 and became an Olympic sport in 1996.
Gymnasts can compete individually or in groups. They are judged on artistry, execution of skills and difficulty of skills, for which they receive points. They perform leaps, balances and rotations along with handling apparatus.
Since 1991, over 240 places in provincial teams have been taken up by St Mary’s gymnasts. Some senior gymnasts have also been selected for the South African Gymnaestrada team. The Gymnaestrada is held every four years and attracts teams from all over the world. St Mary’s gymnasts participated in Finland in 2015, Austria in 2019 and The Netherlands in 2023.
Rhythmic classes are held for Grade 1 to matriculants weekly. Gymnasts take part in competitions during the year. Annually, some high scoring gymnasts represent our province at the South African Gymnastics Games.
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 senior 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 27 occasions we have competed. St Mary’s has won the prestigious Schools’ Boat Race 14 times in this event’s 19-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, Japan and Bulgaria.
Soccer is a new addition to our sports offering. It was taken up with huge excitement. In Term III, 7- a -side matches take place every Friday afternoon and we participate against a few of the other independent girls’ schools in Johannesburg.
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 and third term respectively, 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. The A, B, C and D team galas are all run on a relay system, with the A teams swimming 4x50m relays and other teams swimming 4x25m relays.
Tennis is offered from Grade 1 to 7. In Grade 1, 2 and 3, the emphasis is on learning to rally, serve and score. Mini nets, smaller rackets and softer balls are used to make rallying and controlling the ball easier. Basic concepts such as consistency and making your opponent move are also taught.
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. The players are also encouraged to attend social tennis, which is offered in the first and third terms. In social tennis, the players are taught the basic techniques of all the strokes. How to play doubles and score correctly are also covered in the social tennis lessons.
St Mary’s enters six teams in the Junior League, which is played in the first term. Therefore 36 pupils get a chance to participate in league matches in the first term. We also try to arrange additional friendly matches for the Grade 4 players who may not, as yet, be in a team. Apart from the league matches, the players participate in the Junior School singles and doubles championships, held in the third term.
St Mary’s currently has two provincial representatives in the Gauteng Schools’ team.
St Mary’s participates in the Sun City Private Primary Schools’ Tournament, held during the August holidays and in the BNP Paribas Rising Stars event.
Water polo (Grade 5)
Water polo is an aquatic sport which entails all the basics of swimming, basketball, soccer and rugby. It is played over a 25m width and the players shoot the ball into goals. The attempt to score or defend a goal can only occur over a 30 second possession time. It is a fun team sport where the players develop strong explosive power in the water whilst learning tactics and skills as a team.
Water polo is open to Grades 5, 6 and 7. The junior water polo teams compete in mini festivals over Term I and III.
In Grade 5, the focus is on the fundamentals of water polo such as, ball skills, treading water, positional play and technical elements of the game. Grade 6 and 7 is where the girls will start to play matches versus other schools with junior teams.
St Mary’s participates in the Saheti U13 Festival which takes place in Term I as well the U13 St Stithians invitational water polo tournament which takes place in Term III.
Our coaches are passionate about teaching the players on how to be strong in the water as well as team sportsmanship.