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Meet our Head of Sport: Toby Sumerfield

28 Sep 2018
Huili School Shanghai is now officially open for its inaugural year of teaching, and Toby Sumerfield joins us with the ambition of quickly putting the school on the Shanghai sporting map. Toby brings years of international bilingual teaching experience to the position, as well as plenty of ideas on how to help Huili pupils realise their full potential, both on and off the sports field.My whole professional life has been about trying to help children and young adults better themselves physically, academically and socially through sport. I am a firm believer that sport is not only an invaluable vehicle for physical improvement, it also aids academic achievement, develops a strong sense of moral character and can even bridge gaps in linguistic and cultural understanding. To my mind, this makes it an extremely important feature in any school, particularly a bilingual setting.
Early teaching and Olympics Committee career I started my sports education journey in the early 2000s, graduating from Southampton University in 2004. From there I moved to Japan to teach in a bilingual school in Tokyo for three years. Much like Huili, this school aimed to take the best of Eastern and Western education methods and bring them together. Then, as the 2008 Olympic Games neared, I moved to Beijing to work with the Olympic Committee in various areas of volunteer training, such as customer service, security, language and first aid. Through that role, I then got to work in sports marketing and sponsorship, helping a company with sponsorship opportunities via the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube stadiums. My time working with organisations linked to the Olympics had broadened my mind to the many possibilities that sport can offer young people, but I wanted to get back to teaching and coaching. This led me to move to Shanghai where I later took up a position at one of the first experimental bilingual schools in the country. After eight years there, I was ready for a completely different challenge. My experiences here in China and Japan meant that I was ready to take on the exciting challenge of starting up a new sports department and developing school-wide sports programme from scratch. After hearing the vision, meeting the key people involved and knowing that the Wellington brand would back it with all of their excellent resources, I knew that Huili School Shanghai was the place I wanted to be.
Bringing sport to life at Huili Recent weeks have only reinforced my initial enthusiasm for this role. Now that the bubble wrap has been removed and the children have brought the place to life, I can already see the great potential that Huili has to become a centre of sporting excellence. We have a body of pupils who are clearly eager and ready to dive right into the sports programme that we have produced, ably supported by an outstanding teaching team and the truly exceptional resources available to them. The team have been drawn together from a wide range of professional backgrounds – we have specialists in football, swimming, dance and gymnastics who have taught in bilingual, inner city, rural and international schools in China and the UK. Some have been teaching for many years, while others are just starting out on their professional journey. This means that we have a deep pool of different experiences and perspectives to draw on, to make sure that what we offer the pupils is always as exciting and relevant as it can be.
To help us further with this, we are incredibly fortunate to have exceptional sporting facilities and resources that all Huili pupils can access. For example, our swimming pool is one of the best in China for primary/middle schools, featuring Olympic-standard touch timing technology. We also plan to make the best use of our excellent relationship with our neighbours, the Oriental Sports Centre. We have an open invitation to use their resources, including their world-class badminton and basketball courts. As our budding CCA programme expands, we plan to offer pupils access to even more advanced sports through the centre, such as sailing and kayaking on their specially designed lake. Whatever the weather, whatever our pupils’ interests, at Huili our sporting ambitions are not going to be constrained by resources.
The sporting ethos of Huili So what can our pupils expect from the sports programme that we offer? Most importantly, we have designed sport at Huili to support the fundamental principles of a bilingual education offering. Not only will the children have the chance to explore new sports and their own physical talents, they will also develop their linguistic skills and sense of character too. They will learn essential life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, respecting rules and fair play, coping with success and failure, being modest in victory and resilient in defeat. They will appreciate the value of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Furthermore, developing a love of sport will help them succeed academically. An increasing body of academic research supports the theory that sporting activities have a tangibly positive effect on academic performance. Consult the links at the bottom of the article for further reading on the subject.
In short, we want to ensure that when our pupils leave us, they graduate as excellent sporting athletes with great academic prowess and a strong sense of moral character, embodying the values that we fully support and believe in. Sport is not only an essential way to help achieve this goal, it is also a gateway for our pupils to explore their own physical and mental abilities, ultimately helping them discover who they are and what they want to be. I am extremely proud and very excited indeed to be taking this journey with the pupils, parents and my fellow teachers at Huili School Shanghai. It has been a very auspicious start already and I think that there are plenty of great things ahead of us. For further reading on the connection between pupils’ sporting activities and academic performance, review this study from the International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, or this from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. (https://www.iejee.com/index.php/IEJEE/article/view/191/187)(https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1479-5868-5-10)