A New Era of Sporting Excellence
Aiglon College is ushering in a new era of sporting excellence with the appointment of Jamie Willcocks as the school’s inaugural Head of High Performance Athletes & Sports Innovation.
This new appointment aligns with Aiglon’s broader vision of nurturing passion pathways for students, emphasising both academic rigour, exemplified by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, and the flexibility of the Aiglon High School Diploma for those pursuing a more tailored educational journey.
Building on the school's successful partnerships with Manchester City Football Club and the legendary ski racer Lindsey Vonn, Mr Willcocks is well-placed to harness the elite dynamics of these partnerships and work with students who have the potential to achieve in the sporting arena. Skiing is the natural place to start but the programme will be built to encompass a range of sports.
“Having been based in the local community for a few years, I knew what the students were like and how sport had been developed,” Mr Willcocks says in the lead-up to the season’s first ski race. “I knew that physical education (PE) at Aiglon had taken a really positive direction, both in the people involved and the focus of the programme. I knew I wanted to be part of that, to be part of that school. The fact that school leadership is looking outside is prepared to take risks and to listen to the people with their feet on the ground; that’s what makes it attractive; that’s what will make an innovative programme successful.” For many, such a broad agenda to build a performance sports programme may be intimidating, but with a unique background in both sports science at UK-based performance centres as well as boarding schools in Switzerland, this is exactly the challenge that appealed to Mr Willcocks.
“I know that there are talented athletes here,” he says. “Obviously, it’s going to start with skiing, but it’s not going to stop there. I think Aiglon has so much to offer.” For the school, Mr Willcocks’ new role fits into a wider strategy of developing passion pathways for talented students. Aiglon offers the IB Diploma Programme as its principal qualification, but students also graduate with the fully accredited Aiglon High School Diploma. This qualification can offer more flexibility to students for whom the IB may not have the same draw, or benefits, as a more bespoke programme.
Mr Willcocks articulates how this can be developed in the world of high-performance sports. “The longer-term goal is that we start to build a curriculum around these students. We can have an athlete curriculum where students don’t necessarily have to sign up for the IB. We can actually have a curriculum that attracts athletes to come here where they have the time and the space to fit in all of their training alongside their studies.”
While this new role is focused on developing the school’s top-level athletes, Aiglon’s commitment to character education and holistic development also means that a high-performance mindset should not be limited to one small group. Mr James Dyson, Aiglon’s Head of PE & Sport, articulates what high performance means on the ground for the entire school. “There is the high-performance element, but there is also a culture and mindset of what it means to be a high performer, and what we can teach under this umbrella. High-performance athletes demonstrate resilience, an ability to take responsibility, manage their time well, to eat well –the wider education is about all of these things. Whether for skiers or tennis players, it’s not just how quickly you can get down the snow or how many balls you can hit.”
Aiglon’s partnerships underscore this focus Mr Dyson argues. “The partnerships that we have embody character as much as they do high performance. For Manchester City, the ethos they have is around creating the right people. Speaking to Lindsey Vonn, it’s the character element. It’s her resilience, her drive, her motivation that enables her to get to high performance.”
The wider ethos is central, but for Mr Willcocks, it is also important to understand where the programme is going and how you measure success. These are already questions he is asking, “What is a successful performance athlete in a school programme? And how does that extend after their school life?” For him, it’s not limited to one pathway. “I think a real success story would be university scholarships. Can we actually get them to move onto the next level? Maybe they didn’t think university is for them, and it doesn’t have to be a full ride, but it can be something that contributes to their application and helps them to stand out.” However, in an international context like Aiglon, the goal can go even further. Mr Willcocks adds, “I would also hope that we can have a small percentage who go on from here and get national representation in their sport. If they want to go onto the Olympics, we need to give the students the confidence that they can strive for these types of goals.”
Mr Willcocks will spend the winter focusing on the ski team. He will work with the coaches and the students to develop personalised plans. However, this is just the beginning. “We’re already looking at tennis, golf, and swimming, as well as individual athletes who come in – good fencers or taekwondo players. We want to start building a programme around them.”