The Elite Sports Programme continued to flourish in 2022-2023.
Commencing with our 4-week trial process in September, a record number of students attended - 228 young athletes (73 for Netball and 155 for Football). As a result of our assessment protocols and squad balances, across the teams, in Years 7,8,9 and 10, we selected 111 students, consisting of 51 for netball and 60 for Football.
The coaching staff have been delighted with the attitude, character and intensity in the training sessions throughout the last 34 weeks, with an Elite culture developing amongst the current squads. Building on the previous four years of the programme, we have also continued to strengthen our pathways and seen more pupils benefit from trial opportunities in Netball (County Squads, Northants Storm and Loughborough Lightning) and in Football (at Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Derby County, Kettering, Northampton Town).
Under the watchful eye and support of Football Coaches Reece Platt and Nathan Dorman, the Football teams were involved in 25 fixtures. There have been significant improvements in individual and team performance levels as the season progressed, despite severe disruption to the fixture programme in December – January because of the teacher's strikes, the weather and limited facilities.
On the Netball Court, Head Coach Michele Hudson has been delighted with the progress across all four-year groups, where the focus has been on the development of their positional skills and team play. In short, Year 9 won the Town league (after beating NSG 11-7) whilst the Year 7, 8, and 10 teams finished 2nd. Also, Year 8 reached the County Cup playoffs at Oundle after finishing 2nd (amongst 14 teams). We have also seen a record number of girls training successfully with Northants Storm and County.
Staying on the Netball theme, June marked the opening of the new Elite Netball court, designed with recommendations from England Netball and Northants Storm coaches. Our desire to provide the best possible training facilities is well-received by all the girls and coaches. Similarly, plans are in place to redevelop our existing Football facilities.
In line with our drive to enhance every student's character behind their performance, away from the training sessions and match play environments, this year's cohort has enjoyed listening and learning from some exceptional guest speakers.
Initially, Manisha Tailor joined us at our Elite Sports Parents' Evening in November. It was inspirational to learn about her journey. Manisha is a trailblazer and is currently the Assistant Head of Coaching at QPR, making her the first female and first person of South Asian heritage to hold such a role in the English game.
In December, our Principal, Mr Clyne, very kindly gave up his time and shared the valuable life lessons he has gained through sport during his career. During the spring term, we were fortunate to hear from Vice Principal Julian Smith, Ethan Waller (Northampton Saints Rugby) and Mo Bobat (England & Wales Cricket Board Performance Director).
Finally, in the summer term, we were delighted to welcome back a former pupil – Chantelle Cameron, the Undisputed World Boxing Champion. She spoke of how important the school values remain true for her today, alongside the importance of not letting distractions derail your focus to achieve success. The key messages from all six speakers have been compelling and provided some golden nuggets of information and inspiration for our 111 Elite Sport students – especially the importance of character. The key message was, 'Technical talent may get you an opportunity, but the real skill is managing your behaviour and displaying the core values of Respect, Determination, Ambition, Tolerance and Integrity.'
During the Summer term, the Elite squads also focussed on resetting their goals and working on areas for development in readiness for the 2023-2024 academic year ahead. In addition, we were able to switch our attention to career aspirations. Following trips to the University of Northampton and Loughborough University, our eight squads also had individually tailored careers workshops and meetings with our Careers Leader, Mrs Hesketh-Carthy.
Looking ahead to 2023/2024, we will kick off immediately during the week commencing 4th September with our 4-week trials for all students interested in being selected for our Elite Boys Football squads, Netball squads and our brand new Girls Football squads. After the well-earned summer break, more information on this and other exciting initiatives (including supporting individual athletes, coaching courses and leadership opportunities) will follow.