Grey High School – SA’s Leader in School Sport

Siya Kolisi - Photo by Louis du Plessis
Siya Kolisi on the charge for Grey High School. Photo: Louis du Plessis

Grey High School – SA’s Leader in School Sport

What do Springbok World Cup winning Captain Siya Kolisi, England Rugby World Cup winner, Mike Catt,  cricketing legends Graeme and Peter Pollock, SA Water Polo player Jason Everzard and Hockey Olympian Wayne Graham all got in common?

Besides being gifted in their respective sporting codes they all attended the prestigious Grey High School. Situated in the suburb of Mill Park in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, this 164 year old school is arguably one of the leading sporting schools in  South Africa.

Boasting 2 floodlit heated outdoor water polo pools, 4 rugby fields, a floodlit water-based Astroturf, a state of the art  gymnasium and 4 cricket fields, it is not difficult to see how Grey High School has been able to repeatedly produce world class sportsmen.

A Balanced Approach to Sport at 

Neil Bielby, the Director of Sport at Grey High School points to their approach to school sport as one of the reasons why they have been able to maintain their dominance in school sport.

We try our best to always keep a balance between our sports. Our Boys certainly are passionate about their Sport and the School. We always encourage, wherever possible for a boy to participate in both a summer and a winter sport, which I think allows them to have a very balanced approach to their Sport. I like to believe we still have a holistic approach to a Boys education. It is not uncommon for a boy to play 1st team in more than one sport.”

Determined to Maintain Standards Set by Grey High School Predecessors 

One of the sad facts in sport is the huge drop-off of athletes once they have finished their schooling with only a small percentage continuing to play competitively.  Despite this, Grey HS continues to churn out players who grace provincial and national teams across the sporting spectrum.

Neil Bielby explains that their aim when a boy matriculates is to “continue playing sport whether it be socially, at clubs, provincially or Internationally. Obviously, if a boy becomes a professional and achieves at the highest level, it is incredibly special for all of us at the School.”

 As with every story of continued triumph comes the people behind the scenes that sacrifice their time and energy to maintain the ethos of success. Grey High School is no different.

“One of our advantages is that a large portion of our teaching staff are very involved with our extra mural program and this forms the backbone of our Sport at the School. We also have specialist coaches in the various sports and they along with our staff put in many hours of effort and practice to make a success of Grey Sport. There is also a culture within Sport at Grey that has been built over many years and our Boys are determined to maintain these standards set by their predecessors. A Grey boy will always strive to do his best.”

The Grey High School, Director of Sport is quick to point to other factors that has also contributed to the sustained success of the school. One of them being the feeder schools in Port Elizabeth, “who play quality sport and we are fortunate that many of these boys also end up at Grey High.”

That coupled with a competitive fixture list which requires a great deal of travelling for the teams, creates an unique School spirit as the boys meet and becomes friends with other boys throughout the country.

Opportunities for Disadvantaged Sportsman

It is doubtful whether Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi would have ever reached the heady heights of a World Cup winner had it not been for the recruitment program for disadvantaged sportsmen at Grey High School. Such an initiative does not come without cost as Neil Bielby explains:

“We do our best to recruit disadvantaged sportsman, once a boy is identified, we then must find the finance to allow him this opportunity. These funds must be sourced from Old Boys and Local businesses. Obviously Siya Kolisi is the shining light, but there are many other boys who have gone through the system and have achieved great success, not all succeed to become  professional sportsman, but many others achieve in the business world.”

A Huge Sporting Year Planned for 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has recked havoc on school sport in 2020. Arguably it is the one industry which has been the hardest hit as although many businesses have opened, school sport came to a grinding halt and many traditional sports events never happened.

Covid-19 was even able to stop Grey High School from playing any form of sport. However, 2021 promises to be business as usual for the Port Elizabeth powerhouse who have planned for a normal year with all the regular inter school fixtures and derby days.

Neil Bielby is hoping for a remarkably busy 2021 as the school, “looks forward to hosting many Festivals including the immensely popular and large Standard Bank Grey Rugby Festival over the long weekend near the end of April. Our 1st XI Grey Cricket Festival in January always provides a busy start to the year and that is closely followed by our All Boys’ Water Polo Festival. 2021 is also our turn to host the Nomads Hockey Festival, with arguably the top 10 Hockey schools attending. I am also sure most of SA will be looking forward to seeing Siya Kolisi leading our Boks against the British and Irish Lions in mid-year!”

As far as school sport is concerned, 2021 cannot come any faster! Hopefully, the loss of a full year of sport will be made up with a bumper 2021 where teams and school will once again participate in the purest form of sport. There will be new names and new teams but one thing that is guaranteed is that Grey High School will undoubtedly be leading the way.