Pupils Dive into Sports Journalism

Recently, forty-six of our Lower Fourth and Upper Fourth students participated in a journalism competition with an intriguing premise: ‘Which sport produces the best athletes?’

The competition attracted a wide array of thoughtful entries, presenting our judges with a pleasantly challenging task.

The judging panel was composed of Tim Jones, our former Head of English, and Oliver Young-Myles, a notable Old Bancroftian and sports journalist. Reflecting on the entries, Mr. Jones shared that “the standard was uniformly impressive,” underscoring the difficulty in choosing the standouts.

We are delighted to announce the winners, who each brought unique insights into their chosen sports:

1. Adil – for his compelling piece on Mixed Martial Arts.
2. Jessie Mae – for her detailed exploration of Gymnastics.
3. Mya – for her analytical take on Swimming.

A hearty congratulations to all the students who participated, with special accolades to our winners.

Their work not only demonstrates their writing prowess but also their deep understanding of sport. Well done to everyone involved!

Read the entries below

Which Sport Produces the Best Athletes?


In order to find which sport produces the best athletes, you must first determine the characteristics of the best athlete. In my eyes, the best athlete must be physically strong and explosive as well as having lots of stamina and agility whilst maintaining skills such as spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination alongside other skills unique to their respective sport. I also think that it is important for this athlete to not only have a strongly developed physique, but also have a developed mentality as a result of the sport. Furthermore, this could complement their personality by making them more disciplined and better at other things in life. Taking all of these points into account, I believe that a sport that ticks all of these boxes is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), as these athletes have the highest physicality, lots of skills and a toughened mind and personality.

Going into detail onto the physical side of MMA, athletes that train for MMA are required to be strong to inflict the most damage onto their opponent whilst also being explosive so they can quickly launch a counterattack or parry. They also must be agile so they can traverse the ring they are fighting in and pounce onto their opponent. They must do all of this for up to five five-minute long rounds of high adrenaline and peak performance whilst maintaining an impenetrable guard and good technique meaning they must have exceptional cardiovascular endurance. Toughened muscles and conditioned skin are important as fighters must endure heavy strikes from their opponent. In addition to this, mixed martial arts fighters must be balanced to perform demanding kicks and also to not get knocked down easily. All of these physical skills are also needed for the skills and techniques I will go over in the next paragraph. What puts MMA’s athletes’ physicality over all other sports is the sheer amount of strength and agility and speed needed in a such a small amount of time, providing peak performance in five minutes contrasting with a football, rugby, basketball etc. match lasting around ninety minutes. Alongside this, the physical skills are demonstrated in the most clear/up-front way- in trying to cause the utmost pain to your opponent instead of hitting a ball like in cricket or baseball or tackling someone in rugby or American football.

My next point on why MMA produces the best athletes is that the skills and technique required for an athlete of this sport exceed any other sport. This is because in MMA, the name tells you that you must learn multiple martial arts. These include boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, Muay Thai, taekwondo, kickboxing, and many lesser-known arts. These arts all collectively provide a mix of various grappling and striking skills, kicks and blocks. These skills and techniques are testimony to the techniques/skills gained from this sport. This contrasts with all other sport as none have as much of a mix of skills- all of which must be applied in such a short duration of time. The variety of martial arts also makes for a uniqueness in each MMA fighter. This also teaches fighters the useful skill of self-defence, whilst other sports’ skills are not so useful e.g. Baseball or cricket is hitting a ball and football is kicking a ball. Some may argue other martial arts also provide self-defence, whereas MMA has all of them combined into one sport.

My last point is on how MMA develops its athletes’ mentality. In UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), which is MMA’s official organisation, two people are in an Octagon for five rounds. In each round, it’s just you and your opponent in the ring, and you must have a certain mentality to get back up after being knocked down, and to keep on trying to break your opponent. You also must have a disciplined mentality to train for years non-stop in order to be the best you can. Khabib Nurmagomedov (former UFC champion) trained in the mountains of Dagestan, where he recalled in an interview all he did was “Train, pray, sleep, wakeup.” MMA also requires an in the moment mentality, providing an escape from other problems. Former fighter Courture says “You can’t precipitate or think of anything else. You are right there, and that’s a good place to be when all those other things are going on.” You have to be aggressive to be in the sport, and you also need to have a personality that the media likes to garner up fans. The required mentality for this sport is like no other, as you are isolated from everything, and you only have yourself. This is not the same with team sports, where you have other teammates to rely on and blame, whereas in MMA every action is your own.

To conclude, I think MMA produces the best athletes as the physicality, skills and techniques and mentality produced through the sport is like no other sport due to the harsh physical requirements and isolation in the sport, in addition to the variety of techniques and skills from the different martial arts included needed for the sport.

How Gymnastics Shapes Extraordinary Athletes

Jessie Mae

In this article, I want to explore the world of gymnastics and delve into why it is often considered a sport that moulds exceptional athletes. Drawing from personal experiences, research, and expert opinions, I aim to shed light on the unique qualities and benefits that gymnastics offers.

Gymnastics is a sport that demands exceptional physical abilities, such as strength, flexibility, and coordination. Athletes in gymnastics develop incredible strength in their upper body, core, and legs through various exercises like vaulting, uneven bars, and floor routines. This strength translates into other sports and activities. Gymnastics requires athletes to have exceptional balance and body control. This heightened body awareness can benefit athletes in various sports, helping them excel in movements that require balance, agility, and coordination.

Additionally, gymnastics places a significant emphasis on mental toughness. Athletes must overcome fear, handle pressure, and maintain focus during high-stakes competitions. Not only this, gymnastics stretch for hours on end before and after competitions to prevent strains and sprains. The mental resilience and muscle built when stretching developed in gymnastics can be applied to other sports.

One of the most captivating elements to make of gymnastics is the artistic expression displayed in floor routines and balance beam performances. Gymnasts can showcase their grace, elegance, and creativity through choreographed routines. The combination of powerful athletic movements and artistic flair makes gymnastics a truly unique and mesmerizing sport. In floor routines, gymnasts perform a series of dynamic and acrobatic movements, while also incorporating dance elements, leaps, and turns. They can express themselves through their choice of music, movements, and individual style.

Similarly, on the balance beam, gymnasts perform intricate routines that require not only technical precision but also a delicate balance between strength and grace. The combination of athleticism and artistry in gymnastics is what sets it apart from other sports. It’s not just about the physical abilities and technical skills; it’s about the ability to captivate an audience through the art of movement. If you are participating in gymnastics or watching it as a spectator, the artistic aspect adds an extra layer of excitement and beauty to the competition.

The reason why I chose gymnastics is not because I do it. I chose gymnastics because I look forward to it most when watching the Olympics. My favourite type is rhythmic gymnastics as it uses props such as a rope, hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon.

Over all, I don’t believe any sport creates the best athletes as each sport prioritises a skill or skills. Some sports focus on precision and other focus on strength. I believe gymnastics focuses on key components such as strength, power, flexibility and creativity that can be used in other sports.

Swimming: A calming world to retreat to


Dive into the world of swimming, make it part of your life, and feel the freedom! There are many reasons why swimming produces the best athletes, based on an Olympic research article on the benefits of swimming and my own experience. Swimming is proven to have many physical benefits that has been supported by science. Swimming is a full body workout that engages all of your muscles, therefore strengthening your whole body. Freestyle works your biceps and triceps in your arms. Breaststroke puts emphasis on the glutes and quadriceps in your legs, backstroke engages the muscles in your lower back and arms. Butterfly strengthens your upper back and neck muscles. Whereas the sought-after sport of football primarily focuses on your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings which are all located in your lower body. This results in insufficient strength in your upper body.

Furthermore, swimming is a low impact sport that does not put pressure on your joints. This makes injury and joint conditions less likely to happen; high-impact sports such as running that can cause long term injury such as arthritis. When you propel yourself through the water, your heart rate increases, pumping more blood around your body. Not only is this good for burning fat, but may reduce the risk of heart disease. Swimmers develop greater lung capacity as the body adapts to taking deeper breaths allowing you to travel underwater. The greater your lung capacity, the more efficient you are in other sports as your recovery and oxygen delivery time is increased.

Personally, I am an enthusiastic swimmer who trains five hours per week. Over the course of my swimming journey I have been privileged enough to attend county level galas and participate in the London youth games. My endurance and stamina from swimming has impacted me in many other sports making it quicker to progress in them. For example, I have excelled in cross-country and have an accolade of being fastest long-distance girl runner in my year. This has led to many opportunities to participate in running events and aquathlons. Without swimming I would not have the confidence and fitness to become an all-round good athlete.

With countless physical benefits, athletes also need to have an excellent mental well-being and mindset. When exercising the brain releases feel-good endorphins making you feel positive, ecstatic and can even improve your sleep. Swimming has been linked with improving mental health, helping those suffering from mental conditions. Biologist Wallace J Nichols has spent years researching the phenomenon of the “blue mind”. This is the idea that the soothing colour and texture of water has a calming effect on our mental wellbeing. Swimming requires you to regulate your breathing as you take deeper breaths less frequently. As a result, swimming can stop the anxious uptake of shallow breaths and help you breathe in a gentle rhythm. This helps the athletes keep calm and relax before major events such as the Olympics.

In conclusion I would recommend swimming to anyone who want to become more athletic or delve into a new passion. It is accessible to everyone, so there is no need to eschew it. It is essential to stay fit and re-vitalise your body. By joining the swimming community you can make lifelong friends and pick up important tactics to help you in other sports. Whether you are ten or one hundred years old it is never too late to explore the sublime world of swimming; you could be the next greatly venerated athlete. As Michael Phelps once said, “You cannot put a limit on anything”.

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