The local schools heading for Olympic gold

PUBLISHED: 14:06 26 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:42 30 September 2016




As Rio inspires our youngsters, there’s plenty you can do to support their sporting dreams

Rio’s Olympic and Paralympic Games have been an inspiration, with sporting heroes like Mo Farah, Nicola Adams and Ellie Simmonds firing up would-be sports stars harbouring their own dreams of gold medals.

But talent alone won’t get you there. It takes discipline and determination to make it to the top.

Olympic hockey player Susan Wessels represented her native South Africa at Sydney 2000 having captained her team at Atlanta 1996.

Susan, senior deputy head at Framlingham College in Woodbridge, Suffolk, started playing aged six. She says: ‘I played lots of sports and mostly for fun, I didn’t focus on hockey until I was 16. It’s critical for children not to specialise too early because they can get bored and give up.’

Susan says the skills sport taught her went beyond the hockey field. ‘I learned teamwork and how to handle success and disappointment,’ she says. ‘As I teacher I still find myself drawing on those skills today’ she says.

Susan trained hard, but her parents made sure she kept up with her studies. “It was flat out but my parents had drummed home that, no matter how talented at sport you are, education is critical. If you’re injured you need something to fall back on.

‘As deputy head I encourage my students to be the best they can both in class and on the sports field and we work hard to make sure they have the support they need.’

Maintaining that balance takes discipline and determination and, as Susan says, you only get to the top if you really want it. ‘I wanted to be an Olympian. I’ll never forget walking into the stadium in Sydney, 90,000 people all cheering for you. In that one moment you realise all the hard work has paid off. Sharing what I’ve learned with students is how I get my hockey fix now, and it gives me a huge sense of enjoyment.’

Forest School in Snaresbrook also has exceptional sporting facilities where the GB swim team, fencing team and boxers including Nicola Adams have trained prior to the Olympics.

Director of sport, Ben Adams says: ‘Sport is primarily about having fun, but those who want to make the international circuit need unbelievable drive and passion.’

Frampton has an Elite Player Programme for their most talented, offering support including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, yoga and nutritional workshops.

This month they will host an open evening for parents on ‘maximising your child’s potential’ covering talent identification, injury management, nutritional advice and practical ways parents can support their sporty youngsters.

Forest is committed to encouraging all students, not just their most talented. Ben says: ‘We promote a lifelong passion for activity and ensure all pupils have access to a variety of opportunities.

‘I really believe there’s a sport out there for everyone and if we expose our students to different opportunities, hopefully it will ignite a passion.’

Woodford-based Bancroft’s School also encourages a ‘sport for life’ ethos. Marketing manager, Karen Rogers, says: ‘We want students to enjoy sport, then they’re more likely to be active beyond their school years.’

They have excellent facilities and take an inclusive approach to sport, in recent years adding more teams to represent the school. Karen explains: ‘We now have a C and D team for some sports giving more children that sense of pride and recognition which has a positive impact beyond the sports field.’

Bancroft’s big sports include rugby, cricket and hockey where they’ve had enormous success with some students playing at under-16s international level.

Karen says: ‘We have some very talented young people and they are supported by the school, but it’s important to us that we encourage our students at all levels.’

‘We need to help children discover their own sports and enjoy them and it’s not always a conventional sport, we now have fencing, girls cricket and basketball as co-curricular activities because there was a demand from our pupils.’

‘Sport teaches children so much, enjoyment, teamwork, equality and hard work, skills that help them both on and away from the sporting arena.’

Mark Lewis is junior golf organiser at Epping golf course and he’s passionate about encouraging young people into the sport, so much so, he’s invented a new game, HotShots, which he runs in conjunction with PGA Golf Coach Marc Brenner, to engage youngsters.

He explains: ‘Golf is a long game and children can struggle to focus so I wanted to find something fun and exciting.’

Hot shots is a competition that can focus specifically on areas like driving, chipping and putting. Mark says, “I’ve seen a real change in attitude. When it’s their turn, our young people really focus and concentrate and they love the competitive element and certificates they receive.’

HotShots is currently part of Mark’s junior golf programme but he plans to extend it at Epping and hopes to launch it in local schools.

He says: ‘It’s about encouraging children to get involved, and, most importantly, showing them that they don’t have to be brilliant at a sport to have fun.’

Ben Adams’ top three tips to support your little sporting stars

1. Encourage your child but don’t pressure. If they haven’t performed their best, support, don’t criticise.

2. Don’t force them to specialise too early. Pre-teens should take part in a range of activities and sports as focusing so young can lead to burn out.

3. Be committed. Having a sporty child can be expensive and you need to be prepared to chauffer them around to training and matches.

Framlingham College, Framlingham, IP13 9EY

01728 723789

Forest School, Snaresbrook, E17 3PY

020 8520 1744

Bancroft’s School

High Road, Woodford Green, IG8 0RS

020 8505 4821

For more information on HotShots, please email Mark on or call 07875428943.

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