While St. Mark's fields 40-45 teams in more than a dozen different traditional competitive sports over the course of a year, there are many other options for students during athletic afternoons. From Yoga to Fitness to varied ACE opportunities, the School has something for everyone.
Yoga and Meditation is among those afternoon programs available to St. Markers. "I think it is very important to offer classes like Yoga and Meditation as an alternative or complement to the other team sports," says faculty member Dr. Heather Harwood, who works with students in the School's Yoga program. "We live in a culture that is very fast paced, extroverted, individualistic and often very competitive, cultivating what in Chinese philosophy is known as Yang energy. Most of our team sports are modeled on a paradigm that reinforces that kind of energy. Yoga and meditation gives students an opportunity to slow down, to turn inward and reflect on who they are and what they feel in their quietest moments; to cultivate a more Yin-like relationship with themselves and others that is forgiving, compassionate and holistic. In my experience teaching Yoga over the years, I have found that students often don't even realize they need these moments in their lives, but when they are offered a chance to explore their inner world, they find it becomes an important part of maintaining a more balanced, healthy and sustainable life at school. "
Students can also hone their physical health by participating in the fitness (FIT) program or Strength & Conditioning. "Our goal for FIT is to provide a variety of activities in an inclusive and fun environment so students really enjoy exercising," says Jennifer Verbeek, the School's fitness instructor. "Put simply, it's a win if everyone leaves our sessions both sweaty and smiling." Of course, working out in the Michel Faculty Athletic Center's weight room and fitness facility involves a measure of competition with oneself, but sometimes an element of external competition is introduced, as on a recent winter afternoon when the students in both FIT and Strength & Conditioning played against one another in the Armour Cage (see photo).
Students in Forms IV, V, and VI who fulfill their interscholastic sports requirements may also apply for an Athletic Commitment Exemption (ACE), which allows them to either engage in approved academic or artistic group activities during sports time—such as Robotics or a school-sponsored theatrical production—or create their own individual opportunity for weekday afternoons—some St. Markers, for example, have worked as photographers for the School's Communications Office.
Of course, St. Markers can also contribute as team managers, fulfilling important roles in the interscholastic athletic program. The St. Mark's Athletic Department enhances the school community by providing competitive athletics and fitness activities for all students. The entire school community embraces athletics as an integral component of overall education, designed to teach resilience, teamwork, goal-setting, and a life-long commitment to health and fitness. The SM program is proud to challenge students of all abilities, and through offerings like Yoga and Meditation, FIT, Strength and Conditioning, and ACE opportunities, all seen as complementing interscholastic sports opportunities by going beyond those traditional parameters, there is truly something for everyone.