The subject of school sports tours naturally generates a number of questions, including the most fundamental of all: just what are school sports tours? To give a general overview, they are specialist overseas journeys that involve younger people from schools, colleges and sporting associations, visiting other young people abroad and participating in their shared sporting interests.
Practically, this may involve, say, a football club or lacrosse association travelling overseas to destinations such as Spain, Ireland or the United States, to participate in training and games against local sides. Depending on the operator you choose to travel with, school sports tours encompass a significant number of sports and a diverse number of overseas destinations.
What is the purpose?
There may be a number of general objectives with this sort of tour, however perhaps they may group together under three broad ones:
• To promulgate better relationships between young people of different cultural backgrounds through shared participation in sporting activities;
• To improve the performance and enhance the sporting potential of the participants on the tour, by exposing them to different playing conditions, training regimes and tactics;
• To allow the young people on the tour to experience some of the local customs, conditions and cultures of the country they are visiting.
Of course, there is also a clear intention to help the young people concerned to simply have a good time!
Are school sports tours competitive?
Yes and no. During a typical tour, the participants will get the opportunity to engage in lengthy practice sessions with local teams and some competitive matches. However, the primary objective is not to conduct the tour with the intention of somehow “emerging victorious”, but instead to return enriched and hopefully up-skilled.
Why is there stress on the cultural elements?
Take, for example, a basketball tour to Platja d’Aro in Spain. As you may expect, the basketball facilities locally will be of an excellent standard, but this destination is relatively also close to Barcelona – one of the world’s great cities and a centre of Catalan culture.
It would be a great pity to be so close and not to have the opportunity to explore some of Barcelona’s attractions. This is not merely sightseeing, but an opportunity for young people on the tour to expand their emotional and intellectual horizons – a factor that is sometimes cited as being an important part of improved sporting achievement and enjoyment.
Are these tours intensive?
Both coaching and supervisory staff will take their responsibilities seriously and will expect the participants to take the sporting activities and training equally seriously. Yet this is not exclusively about sport, and it is recognised that young people need leisure time to let off steam. That is why the local accommodation and facilities typically include recreational opportunities and time for the young people to enjoy themselves. Once again, the longer-term performance benefits of allowing participants in sports to have “time off” is well recognised across the sporting world. On professionally-organised school sports tours the participants will be unlikely to complain about being either bored or jaded!