Tradition is one of the defining characteristics of St Mary’s School and it is upheld strongly in our sporting achievements. More than 85% of the Senior School girls represent their school in athletics, swimming, diving, water polo, rowing, hockey, rhythmic gymnastics, tennis, squash, netball, equestrian and basketball teams. They enjoy notable successes in these sports, and many girls are selected annually to both provincial and national sports teams. Girls who do not play for a team still enjoy the experience of team sports and the thrill of the games.
The opportunity to play sport is seen as a vital part of the growth of all individuals. Sport and the experience of playing in a team are microcosms of society. Our coaches strive to teach our girls life lessons through the medium of sport.
The St Mary’s sports coaches are passionate about their sport and have proven themselves in their field of expertise. As with anything, our success will not be measured by getting to the top, but rather in our ability to remain there!
The athletes work hard in a very short season at the start of Term III. We have weekly meets on a Thursday afternoon and an inter-high in the week before half-term. Owing to the brief season our events are limited to:
- 100m, 200m, 400m 800m 1500m
- 80m hurdles
- High jump and long jump
Athletes work with different coaches and follow training programmes pertaining to their various disciplines. Athletes work on stretching, strengthening and conditioning exercises as well as agility, speed and speed endurance. Our training sessions take place on the Howell Hub, but we are fortunate that the majority of our events take place on the tartan track in Germiston. St Mary’s won the inter-high for many consecutive years, but were beaten in 2022.
Basketball has grown rapidly at St Mary’s. At present, we have teams in every age group, that are eligible to play matches on Wednesday afternoons. We participate in a newly formed girls’ league which includes many schools from around Johannesburg. Several schools compete in this league, and matches are played in the first and third terms. Also included in this league are tournaments for each age group. Last year, we welcomed the inaugural St Mary’s Summer Shoot Out which was hosted in the third term. This tournament included U16 and senior sections and was a great success. The St Mary’s 1st team, as well as the St Mary’s invitational team, also compete annually in the Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School and the St Dunstan’s basketball tournaments. The 1st team also competes in the Old Petrian’s Tournament in Term I and the St Peter’s Festival in Term III. Teams from across South Africa and neighbouring countries compete in these latter two events.
We’re very proud of our wonderful diving facilities. We have a half-metre board for training purposes and learning new dives, as well as two 1m springboards, two 3m springboards and a 5m platform. There are bubbles under each board to help the divers learn new dives and boost confidence. This, coupled with the fact that we have excellent dry-land facilities consisting of two trampolines (one with an overhead spotting rig), a dry board and a well-equipped gym, results in better performances and an increase in the number of accomplished divers at St Mary’s.
Teaching and coaching is provided for all interested children, from Grade 1 to matric. There is a diving club that operates from St Mary’s for anyone who would like to develop her diving skills beyond the school forum.
Horse riding has been a formal school sport at St Mary’s since the inception of the Equestrian Schools’ League in 2003. Competitive riding has expanded over the past years and the South African National Equestrian Schools Association (SANESA) league allows riders to compete in many disciplines. The main disciplines include dressage, show jumping, working riding, working hunter, performance riding, equitation and eventing. Western mounted games, stadium eventing and mounted archery are disciplines that have been recently introduced.
Each rider needs to have access to a horse or pony for the season, irrespective of whether the horse is owned, baited or on loan. The league caters for riders of all levels, provided that they have access to a horse that is able to participate at the level offered.
St Mary’s competes in the Johannesburg region of the Gauteng SANESA league. The Johannesburg league comprises four qualifying shows in each calendar year and the girls are encouraged to compete in all four of the qualifiers. Riders are awarded individual and school points based on where they are placed in each individual show. Based on their performance points in the four qualifiers, riders qualify to represent the Gauteng region at SANESA Gauteng Finalsfinals. After successful participation at Gauteng finals, teams are chosen to represent Gauteng at the SANESA National Championships.
Girls are also encouraged to ride in competitions outside of the schools’ league, and are acknowledged for achievements in these endeavours.
St Mary’s has a proud hockey tradition. We have enjoyed much success over a number of years. This success is a result of the hard work and commitment of our coaches and players. Many of our past pupils and coaches have represented provincial or national teams over the years. The success of St Mary’s hockey is, however, not only measured by the results that have been achieved but more importantly by the number of pupils who choose to participate in the sport and continue to do so once they leave the school.
The hockey facilities at St Mary’s are amongst the best in the country. The Nathan AstroTurf was laid in 2000 and the second AstroTurf, the Howell Hub was put down in 2019. These two AstroTurfs are named in honour of Wendy Nathan and Ros Howell who together have contributed to St Mary’s hockey for over six decades.
The highlight of the hockey season for the senior players is undoubtedly the St Mary’s Hockey Festival which is held annually a week before the end of the first term. This festival has grown to include 32 teams from around the country. The matches at the festival are 25-minutes long which makes for some very exciting hockey. The festival atmosphere is electric, and the event really brings the larger St Mary’s community together. In 2023 the festival was held for the 22nd year.
The balance of the hockey season is played in the second term with matches being held on a weekly basis. The season culminates with the newly introduced top schools’ tournaments for U14, U16 and U18. Teams are required to be ranked among the top 12 schools in the country by the end of May. St Mary’s qualifies for these tournaments regularly and this provides our top players with the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the country.
Netball is one of the popular sporting codes in the Senior School, with age groups ranging from U14 to U19. The main netball league is played during our winter term, Term ll; however, we begin with pre-season practices, team trials and festivals after the half-term break in Term l.
Where possible, teams participate in pre-season netball festivals, to help finalise team selections and assist with preparation for the league. These festivals are a great opportunity for our netball girls to be exposed to different styles and levels of play, as teams from across the province and country participate.
The district league is short, but intense, with play-offs taking place before the half-term break in Term ll. In preparation for the league, the girls are invited to attend a training camp the last week of the April holidays.
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.
We are extremely proud of our many successes since our rowing club’s inception in 1993. The premier schools’ event in the rowing calendar, the South African Schools’ Rowing Championships, has been won by St Mary’s on 19 of the 28 occasions we have competed. St Mary’s has won the prestigious Schools’ Boat Race 14 times in this event’s 20-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, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Bulgaria and Italy.
Rowing is a summer sport that begins in the third term and continues into the following year, ending in early March when the South African Schools’ Rowing Championships take place. The season is short, but intense! The sport encourages personal growth and teaches time management, teamwork, dedication and leadership.
The girls generally attend two camps, one in the last week of the August/September school holiday and the other in January, just before school resumes. Training sessions take the form of water-based training at the Victoria Lake Club in Germiston, and land-based training in the ergo room at school.
Squash continues to be a very popular sport at St Mary's, as can be seen by the number of girls who participate in social squash.
St Mary's holds the record for the most number of teams entered into the league by any one school and we have won the prestigious Castle Aggregate Trophy for the past seven years. Such is the current strength and depth of squash that, this year (2023), we even entered two teams each in the prestigious U19A, U16A, 15A and U14A leagues, in order to provide more of our players with strong opposition.
Many of the girls participate in outside tournaments, which helps to improve their standard of play and assists them in their quest for provincial representation. In 2022, the St Mary’s squash team placed 4th at the National Top Schools tournament.
Our superb Aquatics Centre is a hive of activity in the summer terms and our Olympic-size, solar-heated pool has made it possible for many girls to participate in various aquatics activities simultaneously.
For the most part, a bulkhead is positioned halfway across the pool, and we work with two 25m pools. We do occasionally move the bulkhead to 50m, so the Junior and Senior School teams can have sessions over the Olympic distance.
In the Senior School, we have an A and B swimming team. We have a short but busy season at the beginning of each year. The three main events on the swimming calendar each year are the Summer Splash Festival, National Aquatics, and the inter-high gala’s.
St Mary’s hosts the Summer Splash festival, a fun, happy event swum in the 50m pool that ushers in the aquatics season for the year. This is a gala that includes St Mary’s A and B teams, as well as eight local schools that have junior and senior teams, which swim as combined teams from U10 to U19.
The National Aquatics Festival is a national gala, the venue rotates annually between participating teams.
The season culminates with the Interhigh galas. The A team competes in the Premier gala and the B team swims in the A gala. St Marys’ emerged victorious at both these galas in 2023.
Tennis is a vibrant and popular sport at St Mary’s. There are 80 players on the senior ladder. Coach René Plant believes that tennis is a game for life, and tennis at St Mary’s should encompass both competitive and social aspects. The school has eight tennis courts.
St Mary’s participates in two tennis leagues, one in the first term and the other in the third term. Eight teams are entered into each league, which gives about 48 players the chance to participate in a match every week. Social tennis is also offered as a games session throughout the year.
The past 2022/23 season has been an extremely successful one for St Mary’s tennis. St Mary’s won the prestigious Hilton/St Anne’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles Event, were unbeaten in the premier league and also beat 25 other schools to win the Gauteng High Schools’ A inter-high competition. The St Mary’s B team came second in the annual B inter-high competition.
St Mary’s currently has five provincial representatives and two players who have been selected for the South African Schools’ U15 team.
Since its introduction to the St Mary’s School sporting codes, water polo has grown and become bigger than it has ever been in the school’s history. With over 80 girls playing water polo in both the Junior and Senior Schools combined, this sport has gained much momentum and garnered many successes.
St Mary’s senior water polo competes in the top tournaments around the country, including the Roedean School Prestige Cup, the St Stithians Invitational Tournament, the St Anne’s first team water polo tournament, the National Aquatics Festival, Summer Splash, the Reef Cup water polo tournament, U14 Roedean School water polo tournament, U15 Shaun Fuchs water polo tournament and the St Peters Old Petrians water polo tournament.
St Mary’s water polo has produced many provincial and national players ranging from U13 through to U19 and senior ladies.
St Mary’s is one of the few schools that can field teams in all of the water polo age groups, namely U12, U13, U14, U15, 2nd and 1st team levels.