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Sport and exercise are important components of each school day at Pilgrims’, for every boy in the school, and playing competitively is an integral part of the week. Fundamentally, sport at Pilgrims’ is about taking part, playing safely and fairly, and enjoying the game.

The winter games are soccer, rugby and hockey. In the summer, the boys’ attention turns to cricket and athletics. PE takes place throughout the whole year, with swimming lessons through the summer term until October half-term. There are opportunities for boys to pursue even more sport through the co-curricular programme (Commoners), which varies each term but may include, for example, judo, karate, Fives, rowing, squash, sailing, tennis, golf, fencing, fishing, water polo and swimming.

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.

Competitive sport

A busy fixtures list operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We aim to deliver a programme with a balance of performance and participation. Our criteria for success manifests through several factors, including the boys’ experience of representing the school, converting coaching to skill development, and sportsmanship.

At the performance end, 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.


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. Holiday courses culminating in a pre-season training week with professional coaches from Southampton Football Club are very popular with the boys.  We enter ISFA (Independent Schools Football Association) tournaments at U11 and U13 and nominate candidates for ISFA trials.


Rugby is the main sport during the Lent term. As with soccer, we follow the RFU age grade rules of play. 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, solely with the tackle, with technical components adding to the game as it develops to 13-a-side at Year 8.

Staff hold the RFU Rugby Ready qualification as a minimum and the programme is supplemented further with weekly coaching by a specialist. We nominate candidates for the London Irish Developing Player Programme (DPP).

The season culminates with the Rosslyn Park 7s, the largest 7s tournament in the country.


Hockey is offered as an alternative to rugby during the Lent term for boys in Years 7 and 8. School-based practices are held on the all-weather surface on the Grid, and the hockey group has access to two local AstroTurf pitches nearby. All Year 7 and Year 8 boys may represent their Set in the school tournament held at the end of the Lent term.


In Years 3 and 4, we begin by playing the 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. Adaptations of the format are adopted as appropriate for the level of any given team, throughout the age groups. Additional coaching sessions in the nets are held after school in the summer term and specialist cricket courses are available in the Easter holidays.

Pilgrims’ boys often play at club, district, or county level. 


Athletics takes place in PE lessons in the summer and is available as a specialist games option from Year 6. The boys compete against other schools and against each other, working to achieve and better English Schools Athletics Association age-appropriate standards, gain personal bests, and maybe 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 with lots of family participation, 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 Pimm’s.


Weekly swimming 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 (known as 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! 


The games programme is supplemented by sailing, run by SWAC (Southampton Water Activities Centre), which runs from the start of the Summer term to the October half-term break, open to boys from Year 5, according to capacity. Boys may be selected for the IAPS Regatta at the National Sailing Academy in Portland.


Rowing is run in conjunction with Winchester College as a Commoner through the winter terms and as a games option in the summer for boys from Year 7.


We are 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, while the younger boys begin to learn the game by playing pit-pat – the Pilgrims' version – against various walls around the school.

Physical Education

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


Our extensive pitches, New Piece and Wolvesey, are adjacent to the school. At school, boys have the use of our outdoor heated pool, an all-weather games surface and cricket nets.  We are also, kindly, given permission to use the excellent facilities of Winchester College.

Our Location

We are blessed with a truly idyllic location. Just an hour south of London by direct train, with easy access to all the major travel hubs, and yet we are surrounded by the stunning countryside of the South Downs National Park. The school is tucked away between Winchester Cathedral and Winchester College, within the secure and secluded Cathedral Close. Moments from our front door is the heart of the historic city of Winchester, or step through our back gate to find water meadows, countryside, and the South Downs Way.