A SPORTING festival where it really was the taking part that counted.

On Friday June 23, Hampshire schools took over Winchester Sport & Leisure Park for the Hampshire School Games Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival 2022.

The rain didn’t stop everyone smiling with over 100 schools, across 13 Hampshire districts attending the inclusivity positive festival.

Previously the event has been held in Aldershot, with a strong sense of competition.

But after last year’s virtual event, event organisers EnergiseMe took a new approach.

Hampshire Chronicle: Hampshire School Games Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival

Sharon Robertson, event organiser and EnergiseMe’s lead for children and young people said: “This is the first year we’ve done it like this, previously it used to be a competition so they would all come and compete, and I’ve been doing that for 20 years so this is my 21st games.

“It’s changed to focus on our less active children so rather than winning a competition to come here, they’ve been selected to come as schools that don’t usually engage in activity or pupils in the school who don’t usually go to activities.

“What we find is a lot of kids that are playing competitively are already engaged in sport. Our role as an organisation is around trying to engage inactive children.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Hampshire School Games Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival

To start the day, all the schools gathered on the athletics track for a welcoming ceremony. Taking part in a warm-up, group dance and a victory lap before branching off to their designated activities.

Nearly 30 different activities were on offer at the Bar End facility, in hope of embracing sports outside the PE curriculum.

Anna Cooper, a teacher from All Saints school in Winchester said: “It’s been really incredible, they really enjoyed the welcoming ceremony.

“Seeing so many schools taking part and being part of something big has been lovely, especially when we’ve had covid for two years and not been able to do so much. The kids have really been so excited about it all, everytime I’ve seen them at school they’ve talking about it.

“I think it’s vital to open up these opportunities because they’re trying things they may never have tried before, and this might spark an interest. And they might now want to join a club, they might not have been to a leisure centre before. So, it’s giving them a chance to experience new things and hopefully help them become fitter and healthier and realise they can do these things.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Hampshire School Games Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival

The districts included were: Test Valley, Portsmouth, Southampton, Gosport, Basingstoke, Havant and Waterlooville, Fareham, New Forest, North East Hampshire, South Eastleigh and Winchester, North Winchester and Eastleigh, the Isle of Wight and East Hampshire. Each pupil was given coloured t-shirt, representative of their district.

The new base meant the venue was within walking distance for many of the local schools.

Bethany Brown, marketing and communications officer for EnergiseMe said: “We’re very excited to be able to use the local facilities here. Winchester is a middle ground for a lot of these schools so travel wise we wanted to be as inclusive as possible.

“We’ve got around 30 activities which range from sailing, karate, boxing, swimming, athletics, yoga, dance and then we’ve also got the commonwealth village that’s all about community cohesion, culture, dance, music and art.

“It is festival, it’s not competitive, it’s just about establishing a love for movement.”

READ MORE: More than 400 people take part in Alresford 10k

The annual sporting event is supported by National Lottery funding through Sport England. The public body aspires for everyone in England, regardless of age, background, or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity.

Hampshire Chronicle: Hampshire School Games Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival

Event organiser, Sharon added: “We’re funded to run a showcase event, an extravaganza to generally get kids engaged and find sports that they do like and do things that they wouldn’t normally try like new age curling or karate.

“Obviously, we couldn’t do this without the volunteers. A couple of the sports people we paid for them to be here but on the whole most people are here as a voluntary role, doing it in their own time. Promoting either their sport or their club which really is what makes the event happen. If we didn’t have volunteers we wouldn’t be able to make it happen.”

Sharon estimated they had around 300 people working at the event, half of which being students from local secondary schools and colleges.

Schools were welcomed to bring around 10 children each, with teachers encouraged to choose kids who wouldn’t typically compete for their school. Jake Hiscock from St. Bedes school in Winchester said: “We were massively excited to bring our school here, it’s a really well organized, huge event with lots of children.

“We pulled names from hat, it was luck of the draw who got to come so we’ve got a real range of year four and year five children- we’ve got 10 kids who are loving it.

“We didn’t want to pick our best athletes or any specific group and it’s worked out really nicely.

“Some children here do like sport but don’t have the opportunity to do it outside of school so this is the perfect way to introduce them to loads of different activities.

“We’re doing quidditch at the moment, but then we’ve also got swimming- which is a really important life skill and squash which I think a lot of them have never played or had any exposure to before so that’s very exciting”.

Sport England invests up to £300 million of National Lottery funding to projects like the Commonwealth Sport and Physical Activity Festival.

To find out more about EnergiseMe and what they do go to https://www.energiseme.org/.

Click the top image to see photos from the event. 

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this story. We really appreciate your support.

Please help us to continue bringing you all the trusted news from your area by sharing this story or by following our Facebook page.