Sport and exercise are an important component of each school day at Pilgrims’. Playing competitively is an integral part of the week, but learning to play well and to play safely are fundamental to our sports provision for all the boys.

The winter games are football, rugby and hockey. In the summer, the boys’ attention turns to cricket and athletics. Swimming lessons and PE take place throughout the whole year.

Skills development

Each discipline is taught in a way to introduce the boys gently to the sport and to develop their skills as they increase in proficiency and age. Boys showing a particular strength and ability may be encouraged to enter for a sports scholarship at their senior school and given additional training to support their application.

Skills development begins in the Pre-Prep, where a sporting activity is offered each day. The boys have one and a half hours of scheduled curricular sport each week, comprising PE and games with a PE specialist.


Weekly swimming using the Winchester College pool begins in Year 1, taught by staff who are highly experienced in developing the skills and confidence of young swimmers. Swimming lessons continue throughout all the year groups. Water polo is played in our own outdoor pool (the Puddle), which the  swim squad also use for training sessions. Impromptu swims in the day may also occur in the heat of the summer term, when a quick splash in the Puddle helps to refocus hot minds!


Rugby is the main sport during the Lent term. As with football, global studies have led to the implementation by national governing bodies of age appropriate adaptations of traditional invasion games. Skills are developed through a greater involvement within the game and a deeper exposure to the skills required. This is particularly reassuring for boys who are new to the sport. Our rugby coaching begins with learning to throw and catch the ball in the Pre-Prep, which develops to tag rugby in Year 3. Contact is introduced in Year 4, and finally the boys progress to competitive scrums and lineouts from Year 5, as per the RFU continuum.

We have developed close links with London Irish RFC whose coaches make regular visits to take training sessions with the boys. Guest coaching by sporting giants revered by the boys (and staff!), such as Justin Marshall, Martin Johnson and Peter Short provides a great insight to the higher levels of the sport and is a wonderful inspiration for the boys.


Hockey is offered as an inclusive alternative to rugby during the Lent term. Boys in Years 7 and 8 are eligible to participate, provided that they would not normally be selected for rugby teams. The hockey group has access to two local astro turf pitches at nearby Bar End Athletics Stadium and the River Park Leisure Centre, which they use twice a week. School based practices make use of the all-weather surface on the Grid. All Year 7 and 8 boys are available to represent their Set in the school tournament held at the end of the Lent term


Fielding and batting skills begin in the Pre-Prep using plastic bats and tennis balls, with boys learning the basic principles and rules.

In Years 3 and 4, we begin by playing the Kwik Cricket pairs version of the game. This allows for plenty of inclusive play as players lose runs, rather than their wicket, for being out. The hard ball is introduced halfway through Year 4. In Year 5, the boys adopt the more familiar 11 a side format, with the regular laws, and a strong emphasis on the spirit of the game. Additional coaching sessions in the nets are held after school in the summer term, and the 1st X1 may attend a specialist training session before the season begins.


Our cross country runners train and compete year round but in the summer term, PE lesson time is devoted to athletics. There is also a specialist athletics group during games. The boys compete against other schools and against each other, working to achieve and better national age appropriate standards and to break school records. Hurdle heights, throwing and running event distances are all age applicable, and modified equipment may be used. The Pre-Prep Sports Day is a mixture of competitive races and fun events, while Athletics Finals, held on Wolvesey, is the culmination of the season for the Prep, a family day of track and field competitions, picnics and Pimms.


Competitive sport

A busy fixtures list operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We play to win, but we also seek to ensure that as many boys as possible enjoy the opportunity to represent the school in a team, at their level. The impressive number of teams that play each week, and the breadth and depth of their abilities reflect this commitment. There is also a full programme of inter Set (house) competitions across all the sports and age groups.


Played during the Christmas term, the boys follow the FA developmental model with small-sided adaptations, smaller pitches and goals, and no off-sides until Year 7. A pre-season training week with professional coaches from Southampton Football Club is very popular with the boys, who enjoy the opportunity to practise their skills in small-sided matches and focussed drills.



National Levels

The school competes in the Independent Schools Football Association Competition, at Rosslyn Park National Schools Rugby Sevens and at Bryanston Prep Schools Rugby Sevens. Boys are regularly invited to compete at regional and national athletics championships. Several boys each year have trials with Hampshire Rugby and the Hampshire Cricket Association, and our stronger swimmers will compete for local clubs, often to county and national levels.

Physical Education

We believe it is vital to engender a life-long commitment to remaining fit and healthy. Our PE programme is varied and allows the boys to encounter many different physical pursuits and activities, with proper tuition. The boys leave school with a range of skills including swimming, gymnastics, short tennis, basketball, health-related fitness, badminton and volleyball.

There are opportunities for boys to pursue a wide range of minor sports through the extra-curricular programme (Commoners). The programme varies each term but may include, for example, judo, karate, fives, squash, sailing, tennis, golf, fencing, fishing, water polo and swimming.


One of the few Prep schools to play Winchester Fives competitively, our record in the national fives championships is impressive for both pairs and singles, and includes previous National Under 13 champions. Winchester Fives is played in a court similar to a squash court, but with a solid ball and a glove on either hand. Pilgrims play the game from the age of 11 as a Commoner activity at the Winchester College courts, though the younger boys ape their seniors by playing pit-pat - the Pilgrims' version - at various walls around the school. Indeed, the Grid was built to include buttresses intentionally positioned so as to create three practice courts.


Our extensive pitches, New Piece and Wolvesey, are adjacent to the school. At the school, boys have use of our outdoor heated pool, an all weather games surface and cricket nets.

We make full use of the excellent facilities of Winchester College, including the large sports hall, the 25m indoor heated swimming pool, the dojo, squash and fives courts, all of which are less than 10 minutes walk from the school.