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!
Our athletes are treated professionally and follow training programmes pertaining to their various disciplines. Athletes are introduced to stretching, strengthening and conditioning exercises. They attend fitness, agility and specialisation sessions by excellent coaches, who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in all areas of athletics.
St Mary’s has won the inter-high athletics for the past 12 years and currently holds a number of records at this event.
Basketball is the fastest-growing sport at St Mary’s and we participate in the Rainbow League, which includes schools from Johannesburg and Pretoria. About 10 schools compete in the league, which takes place in the first and third terms. The St Mary’s 1st team, as well as the St Mary’s invitational team, also compete annually in the Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School basketball tournament and the American International School of Johannesburg tournament. The 1st team also competes in the St Peter’s tournament. Teams from across South Africa and our neighbouring countries compete in these tournaments.
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.
It seems that hockey and St Mary’s are synonymous. Ros Howell, our deputy headmistress, is a past national player and captain, and was coach of the South African women’s team that played in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. We are also proud of the many St Mary’s Old Girls who have represented South Africa.
Twenty-nineteen saw us hosting the 20th annual St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival with 32 teams, from across Southern Africa competing in four days of fast-paced hockey. Both our 1st and festival teams look forward to this festival and each year, we wait in anticipation to see where they will place.
To give our girls the opportunity to play as much hockey as possible, our teams play in two different leagues. Our A and B teams play in the Grays League, and our C and D teams play in the Malik League.
Our U14A, U16A and 1st teams participate in tournaments at the end of their seasons. The 1st and U16A teams qualified for their respective Top 12 Tournaments. Qualification for these tournaments is based on results during the season and teams are then ranked accordingly. The top 12 senior teams play at C&N Sekondêre Meisieskool Oranje and the top 12 U16 teams play at Paarl Gimnasium. Both competitions provide a showcase of top schoolgirl hockey, and each match is played at a high level and with great intensity. The U14A team played in an invitational tournament, hosted by DSG in Grahamstown, which includes top U14 teams.
We are pleased to announce that ex-national player and St Mary’s Old Girl Cindy Brown is returning to St Mary’s in 2020, when she will take over as the new 1st team coach.
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. In 2020, we will be hosting our 1st annual U16 netball festival.
To give our girls the opportunity to play as much netball as possible, our teams play in two divisions in the D13 netball league. Our A and B teams are currently in the B pool, and the C and D teams are in the D2 pool.
The D13 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 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. 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 also achieved provincial recognition. We use ribbons, ropes, balls, hoops and clubs as part of the routines. We combine our sessions with girls from Waverley Girls’ High School, who add a wonderfully vibrant dimension to rhythmic gymnastics.
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 20 of the 26 occasions we have competed. St Mary’s has won the prestigious Schools’ Boat Race 12 times in this event’s 18-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 and Japan.
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 seen by the vast 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 has won the prestigious Castle Aggregate Trophy for the past six years. Such is the current strength and depth of squash that this year 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.
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, and the Junior and Senior School teams have sessions over the Olympic distance.
In the Senior School we have A and B swimming teams. At the beginning of each year, 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.
Each year we compete at both the National Aquatics Festival and inter-high. Both are high-powered galas involving schools from around the country and Gauteng respectively.
Tennis is a vibrant and popular sport at St Mary’s. There are 75 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. St Mary’s 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 2018 season has been an extremely successful one for St Mary’s tennis. The St Mary’s A team participated in both the Hilton/St Anne’s and Eunice tennis festivals, emerging unbeaten in the latter. The junior inter-high team (Form Is and IIs) won a nail-biting final to clinch the junior inter-high title; 22 schools competed in this event.
St Mary’s also emerged victorious in the A inter-high, which is a team event involving the school’s top four players. The A inter-high team beat St Stithians in the final to win the title. In addition to this, the St Mary’s B team won the B inter-high tournament. This is a tournament for players ranked 5-8 on their school’s ladder.
St Mary’s head of tennis, René Plant, has been named the country’s Fed Cup captain by Tennis South Africa. René will oversee the national women’s team up to and including the 2020 Fed Cup campaign.
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 Old Mutual Prestige Cup, the St Stithians Invitational Tournament, the Reddam House Constantia Girls’ U19 Water Polo Tournament, the National Aquatics Festival, Summer Splash, the Reef Cup Water Polo Tournament and the St Peters Old Petrians Water Polo Tournament.
St Mary’s junior water polo competes in the U14 Roedean School tournament, U15 Shaun Fuchs Cup and the U15 Collegiate tournament.
Roedean School (SA) and Old Mutual initiated a first team tournament comprising the top 10 girls’ water polo schools in Gauteng. This initiative involves disadvantaged communities and aims to create water-safe learners. Each school that participates in the tournament pairs with a disadvantaged school and implements Learn to Swim programmes. The St Mary’s 1st team has had great success, and has donated its winning funds to a development swimming programme at HA Jack Primary School.
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.