A Small Boarding School Plays to Its Strengths

As sub-genre, small boarding schools, offer a more communal and individual boarding experience from than their large school brethren and this certainly true of athletics.

If you’ve got a student body of 140 (or less), filling rosters and competing, in large team sports can prove challenging. Try filling two reasonably competitive soccer, or lacrosse, rosters- varsity and junior varsity- from a pool of 70 boys, or girls, while offering the students a choice of activities. Coaches become recruiters within their school. Sometimes students pull double athletics/activity duty. It’s an upstream swim.

Today, I came across a story in the Keene Sentinel covering Dublin School‘s first home mountain bike race. The race, though, is only part of the story.

Dublin’s thinking and philosophy behind the team and the race are where the real story lies. Dublin seems to be working toward an athletic approach that plays to a small school strength- individual development.

If it’s difficult to play with the big schools in the team sports arena, what about athletic offerings that play to strengths of students pursing individual sports?

Dublin’s inaugural hosting of its mountain bike team shows a school that knows the kinds of students attracted to, and who do well in small schools, all finding a home and medium for success in a school who knows what it does well.

In the finest small school tradition, Dublin’s first mountain bike meet wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about the students- people.

“For Dublin Coach Bill Farrell, Wednesday’s meet was a major step, regardless of how the Wildcats did.

‘This is just to establish we’re in the game,’ Farrell, a science and math teacher at the school, said. ‘To put on one of these in our first year is more important than fielding a big team.’

A former professional skier and longtime skiing and mountain biking coach, Farrell came to Dublin School prior to this school year from Kimball Union Academy in hopes of building a top-notch endurance sports program.

‘These kids that I work with didn’t make it in other sports,’ Farrell said. ‘I’ve got no cuts, no benches. All I’ve got is parents saying, ‘Thank you. (Our son) has found a home here.’”(KS)


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  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard of a few boarding schools doing things  like this.  I think it’s a great idea.  In fact, I really think smaller public high schools should do similar things.  It would be great for them, instead of, like you said above, trying to make a football, basketball, soccer, and baseball team with 60 or so boys, some of who may not even like sports.  Same for the girls’ end.


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