Interview: A day in the life of… Mark Duncan

The director of sport at Windlesham House School in West Sussex takes us through a typical day – not that there is such a thing

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

There is never a dull moment when dealing with our young charges in the realms of physical education and school sport. No two days are ever the same. The prospect of opening new doors for children and introducing them to exciting new ideas, activities and habits, which will hopefully stay with them for life, is particularly rewarding.

My role is also about preparing pupils for their early forays into the world of sports and for competitive matches against our neighbouring friends and rivals – all of this and more is quite enough to get even the most grizzled veteran out of bed each morning with a spring in their step!

What is the first thing you do when you start work each day?

As with many less traditional desk-driven roles, each day for any director of sport will likely begin with ploughing through a weighty email inbox. From in-school communication, to competition details, preparations for future fixtures, news from organisations such as IAPS and other agencies, not to mention investment ideas from tour companies and equipment providers, there is always heavy traffic to manage.

What is the best and most challenging aspect of your role at Windlesham House School?

The best aspect of my role is coordinating and fulfilling the inter-school fixture programme – especially when everything goes according to plan and the children are buzzing with their shared experiences. At the same time, this is also the biggest challenge as the drive to ensure maximum opportunities at the right level is always a labour of love.

When combined with the all-important array of communications with other departments to check grounds and playing surfaces, transport and medical and catering facilities amongst others, it all makes for an action-packed tightrope walk and one huge team effort.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I always loved physical education at school, but I came to concerted team sports a bit later than most prep school children. My favourite subject at school was English, but I also always enjoyed history and had a particular soft spot for the Crusades and the Vietnam War.

What are you currently reading?

I’m an avid reader and I have two books on the go at the moment. The first is Eat and Run by ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, which along with vegetarian daughters has been responsible for a substantial diet change in 2022. The other is Voyage of the Dawn Treader from The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis, which I am currently enjoying with my youngest daughter.

What has been your career highlight?

I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a number of career highlights. In my previous post finishing as runner-up for the South East at The Teaching Awards was gratifying and humbling in equal measure, not least because it was awarded based on comments from colleagues, parents and children.

In my third year at Windlesham House, I also took the 1st VII Rugby – we were able to win our own prestigious tournament for the first time in 27 years and the side-line celebrations, with much of the school bursting onto the pitch, underlined just how special a community I was a part of.

Taking athletes up to the Alexander Stadium for the National Prep Schools Athletics Championships is also always a real treat with a whole host of highlights. The 2011 U14 boys’ high jump competition was perhaps the pick of the bunch, though, as our year 8 competitor seemed to have the entire stadium rooting for him as he smashed the national record with a height of 1.76m, which still stands today.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

If I wasn’t director of sport at a prep school, my first port of call would be sports journalism in some form.

Or, alternatively, for a little more peace and quiet, a librarian, which was where my mum, who is my absolute hero, started her teaching career before going on to multiple headships on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mark went to Minety CE Primary School and Dauntsey’s School in Wiltshire. He has a BA Hons (QTS) degree in Education Studies with History from Warwick University and has gone on to take coaching qualifications in hockey, cricket, rugby, athletics and basketball. He was at West Park First and Middle School and then Thomas A Becket Middle School in Worthing from 1998–2004 and 2004–2008, respectively, and joined Windlesham in September 2008.

Twitter: @WindleshamTweet

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