Popular and Unique Boarding School Sports

According to Boarding School Review, some of the most popular boarding school sports (offered by over 100 boarding schools) are not particularly surprising. You’ll see many of these same sports practiced in schools, both public and private, around the country:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross Country
  • Dance
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling

With the exception of swimming and ice hockey, schools with a modest campus and comparably modest budget can usually offer these sports.

But where boarding schools differ is in their passion for sports and the full list of offerings.

The Boarding School Difference

Boarding schools do not just offer athletic programs; many require students to participate. The schools believe sports are important activities to keep the students physically active, to help them learn discipline and teamwork, and to promote a community environment.

Expect boarding schools to be competitive (at least among their own “houses” and from other boarding schools) when it comes to sports, and to have excellent coaches and facilities. Whereas public schools rely on funding, which can often change drastically over time, boarding schools use their tuition funds to finance sports complexes and athletic coaches (in addition to excellent teachers, of course).

That’s why you’re likely to find dedicated ice hockey rinks and competitive swimming pools at boarding school campuses.

Sports Unique to Boarding Schools

In addition to all of the above sports (and facilities to match), you might find the following at a boarding school:

  • Badminton
  • Ballet
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Cheerleading
  • Crew
  • Equestrian Sports (including Polo)
  • Figure Skating
  • Gymnastics
  • Marksmanship
  • Mountain Biking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Rugby
  • Sailing
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Squash
  • Surfing
  • Ultimate Frisbee

These sports are far more common in a boarding school than a public school, which would need exceptional funding or a devoted teacher to spearhead the project. Boarding schools offer a legacy of tradition in sports so that you and your child know what to expect from the program.

Boarding schools make an excellent choice for students who want to go to college on an athletic scholarship and want to focus as much on their sport as they do on their academics. But participation in sports is typically required by all students. Fortunately, the competitive spirit makes sports fun, with each grade and/or residential house competing against each other for coveted bragging rights.

Location Matters

Boarding schools tend to be collected in some regions of the country, and location affects the sports available. For example, there is a cluster of boarding schools in the New England region, which often makes skiing and other snow sports a practical option. On the other side of the country, boarding schools tend to be located along the coast, particularly in Californian cities. Boarding schools in Los Angeles county can offer the unique sports of surfing and sailing thanks to proximity to pristine beaches.

Sports can even vary regionally thanks to local popularity. You’ll find football is more popular than basketball in some areas, and vice versa. In other regions, baseball is the clear favorite. And up north, ice hockey is preferred over field hockey any day. If equestrianism is your sport of choice, it seems as though you’ll have more options in the small state of Connecticut than in the entire Midwest.

In short, boarding schools make sports central to campus life to keep students healthy and busy. Athletics offer a welcome mental break from the rigorous academic programs, and are more about teamwork and personal development than about winning championship titles. If you’re looking at boarding schools for your child, choose one with plenty of athletic offerings to help him or her find a true passion.


Photo Credit: Bill Brine on Flickr. CC-BY-2.0.

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