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Ellesmere College's Alec Tate

In the summertime...

Summer's arrival brings new beginnings on sports fields across the country, writes Simon Fry

Posted by Hannah Oakman | April 02, 2016 | Sports & Leisure

Schools bristle with fixtures, staff begin new roles, road atlases are consulted and facilities await their first use as schools nationwide welcome the summer term.

First and foremost, the new cricket season sees the taking guard of a new innings at Oundle School, where former England Test player John Crawley begins his tenure as master-in-charge of cricket.

A Cambridge University history graduate, Crawley played cricket professionally for 20 years – including 12 as captain of Lancashire CCC – and gained 50 England caps between 1994 and 2002. After retiring in 2009, he worked at Marlborough College then moved to Oxford’s Magdalen College School, where he taught history and was head of cricket. His most recent post before Oundle was at Oakham School, where he taught history and was director of cricket for the past three summers.

Elsewhere at Oundle, tennis star Pippa Bourne was part of the Lincolnshire under-18 girls’ tennis team which triumphed at County Cup level in late February. “For our under-18 team, this meant a weekend event in Cambridge,” explains Pippa, who was competing for the first time at this age level. “We played teams from Suffolk and the Channel Islands, with all six team members playing a singles then a doubles match, making up the nine rubbers.”

The Oundle tennis team

Pippa won both her singles, contributing to Lincolnshire’s 4-2 lead over Suffolk and 5-1 lead over the Channel Islands at the end of day one. Everything hinged on the doubles on day two, and the competition was fierce. Luckily the Lincolnshire number one pair secured a win, putting the team ahead of Suffolk and ending in a 5-4 victory, plus an 8-1 triumph over the Channel Islands.

“We were really pleased to win,” said Pippa, who has three more years to compete in this team. “We now move up to the next division, where the level will be higher – so there’s lots of training ahead, and no time to relax. But playing in this competition and representing my county is such great experience. I am now really looking forward to the school tennis season!”

Pippa certainly shows great promise: last summer she played in front of Tim Henman at the All England Club as part of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon tournament. Some 20,000 promising youngsters competed in pursuit of a prestigious place in SW19, with Pippa one of only 144 boys and girls going on to appear in the National Finals.

While some of Plymouth College’s performance athletes will have the thrill of competing at the Rio Olympics this summer, there are exciting times ahead for the rest of the college’s community with the introduction of a girls’ cricket programme. The school has always fielded strong boys’ cricket teams, staging numerous tournaments and producing the likes of James Burke and Jake Libby, who have recently joined Surrey CCC and Nottinghamshire CCC respectively.

However, although the college’s girls have competed in Devon's indoor cricket competitions for the last two winters, they have not had the same formal structure to training and progression. That all changes this summer, though, when girls’ cricket hits the curriculum, offering a healthy timetable of fixtures and competitions.

“We are really excited about expanding girls’ cricket,” says the College’s head of cricket, Matt Byrne. “In a school where sport and extra-curricular activities are such an important part of the educational mix, we were keen to put together a robust programme that will give the girls regular training slots and a fixtures list to match the boys. We hope this will give them lots of opportunities to take the sport further.”

The college is also keenly awaiting the annual visit of the Marylebone Cricket Club – the world’s oldest and most prestigious cricket club – on April 28. Plymouth has been part of the MCC’s annual tour of Devon and Cornwall for 15 years, the hosts beating the tourists with an over to spare last summer.

Further north, some of the 20-25 Llandovery College pupils representing the school at the Brianne athletics championships on May 12 may progress to international competition if success is enjoyed subsequently at the Dyfed Schools and Welsh Schools championships this summer. And head of sport Clare Flowers believes that, whatever the level, athletics offers competitors a great spirit of inclusivity.

Llandovery College's Bethany Randall in action in the sprint hurdles

“Athletics is a fantastic sport, as there is an event for everyone. If you are fast, there are sprints; if you display endurance qualities, there is middle- or long-distance running; strong performers can often throw well, while explosive performers excel in the jumping disciplines. At Llandovery we encourage all pupils to take part in athletics. It is the perfect vehicle for summer training supporting their main sport. Our pupils are all-rounders who happily participate in multi-discipline events.”

This is neatly exemplified by pupil Jack Evans, whose sporting prowess has seen him compete in many athletic events. He won bronze in the senior combined events in 2015 and 2014 and qualified for the Welsh Schools event over numerous years in javelin, discus, shot put and high jump. A gifted rugby player, Jack follows in the footsteps of Wales rugby star George North, who similarly excelled in summer sports as a pupil at Llandovery.

Clare can reel off a list of pupils who, she feels, are likely to shine in this summer's sporting programme. Long jumper and 100m runner Toby Baldwin joins Bethany Randall (hurdles, shot put, relay) and Olivia Haines (200m, long jump, triple jump, relay): other names to watch include Rhodri Bullock (shot put), Tomi Lewis (high jump, long jump, 100m, relay) and Corey Baldwin and Max Richard (both 100m).

Two hundred miles to the south and east, the grass version of polo is played at Ascot’s Heathfield School throughout the spring and summer months. The school has an ongoing and very active equestrian presence and its own equestrian co-ordinator, Gill Glimmerveen – who, along with her pupils, is looking forward to a busy and exciting summer of equestrianism. “Heathfield’s show jumpers are currently aiming to qualify for the Royal Windsor Horse Show (May 11-15) where we have competed for the past five years,” Gill reveals.

The school has 24 polo riders of all ages, and schedules five polo lessons a week. Gill has invited ten local polo-playing schools, including Bradfield, St Mary’s Ascot, Harrow, Eton, Wellington and Stowe to compete in a polo championship weekend at Westcroft Park Polo Club this spring. April will also see the school’s younger year groups attending Ascot Racecourse as guests of the British Horseracing Education & Standards Trust, to investigate how their mathematical knowledge works within Ascot’s working day.

And so to summer surfacing. Whether it’s a sand-dressed artificial turf area for hockey and multi-sports, some 3G artificial turf for football and rugby, or tarmacadam courts for tennis and netball, S&C Slatter are the sports construction specialists with 25 years’ experience in the design, build and maintenance of artificial sports pitches. They are also the lead provider and installer of Notts Sport’s ECB-approved, non-turf cricket pitch systems.

With unrivalled experience in working with schools and colleges, the company designs complete coaching and practice facilities that allow both established players and those learning a sport to develop and improve their game. Artificial match pitches can also be ‘tuned’ to recreate different playing conditions, while providing a challenge for batsmen and bowlers alike.

The company’s many clients include Cheltenham College, where S&C Slatter provided two artificial turf hockey pitches, a tarmacadam multi-use games area (MUGA) and new cricket practice facility; Royal Holloway University of London (3G artificial turf pitch for football and hockey, sand-dressed artificial turf pitch for hockey and lacrosse, tarmacadam tennis and netball courts, plus a MUGA); and Battle Abbey School, who commissioned a sand-dressed artificial turf pitch for hockey, netball and tennis.

Last but not least, ‘have clubs, will travel’ is the motto for Ellesemere College pupil Alec Tate, who is looking forward to clocking up some miles with his golf clubs this year. Alec’s next big tournament will be the Scottish Youth Open Championship on the Kittocks course at Fairmont St Andrews, Fife, in July while November will see a return to Spain following his admirable performance at last year’s Andalucía Junior European Open. His top 50 finish at the 2015 event brought an automatic invitation to return this year to the event, which features 130 European juniors and numbers leading UK golfers Luke Donald and Justin Rose among its past champions.

“It took me a bit of time to get used to the atmosphere and competition,” Alec reveals. “The courses were in an excellent condition, a professional standard, which I hadn’t played on before. The greens were lightning quick. I was genuinely nervous on the first tee as over 300 spectators were watching us all tee off, but the event was hugely enjoyable for me and playing amongst national junior champions from all over Europe has given me valuable experience.”

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