The School Games is an annual multi-sport event for young athletes. It is based on the format and model of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as there are multiple sporting events being held across a four-day period. The event is organised by the Youth Sport Trust and has several sponsors. 12 sports are featured in the Games with 1,600+ athletes competing at the event as well as coaches, referees, table officials and volunteers.
Wheelchair Basketball was introduced to the School Games in 2011 and has become one of the Games’ most competitive sports since its inception. In the tournament, six teams compete; the three home countries and three English teams, North, Central and South. The teams are split into two pools of three and play each other in a round robin format before advancing to the semi-finals and final.
Additionally, most of the RAW Coaching team will be present at the event; Rosie Williams is England Central’s team manager, Lucy Robinson will be playing for England Central, Joe Fermor-Worrell will be a wheelchair basketball official referee at the Games and I will be playing for Scotland.
Co-captaining Scotland is Tees Valley Titans’ Josh Manson, the 17-year-old from Edinburgh, Midlothian who is playing in his 4th Games said: “Competing at the Games is an incredible experience, there’s an amazing atmosphere and buzz around the whole event; not just with wheelchair basketball but, with every sport.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “I want us to do well and bond together as a team so we can compete to our highest ability and hopefully we’ll be playing for a medal.”
Captaining Wales is CWBA’s Ollie Griffith-Salter, the 18-year-old from Llandovery, Carmarthenshire who is playing in his 3rd Games said: “It’s an absolute honour to compete for my country and to captain the squad. Due to the sport being so small, it’s difficult to have tournaments with full games and accommodation; School Games help provide this every year to help develop the next generation of athletes. Rolling onto the court in my Welsh kit is the best feeling in the world.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “This year’s Games will be our toughest yet because we have some new players in the squad who are inexperienced when it comes to going to big tournaments. However, over the course of the four days I believe we will grow as a team and will get better every day.”
Representing Northern Ireland is NI Knights’ Conn Nagle, the 16-year old from Belfast, County Antrim who is playing in his 3rd Games said: “To compete in the School Games is always a great feeling. It’s undoubtedly my favourite competition of the year. This year will be my 3rd School Games and as always, I can’t wait to compete. The School Games is a unique event as it’s the only multi-sport event on the wheelchair basketball calendar which makes the whole experience more enjoyable and exciting.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “Above all, I want the team to perform to the standard we know we’re capable of, we have to stick together and play as a team. I think that if we do that we’ll definitely be able to cause other teams problems over the course of the competition.”
Captaining England North is Sheffield Steelers’ Tom Barnes, the 18-year-old from Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire who is playing in his 4th Games said: “It’s great to compete at competitions such as the School Games, it gives people the opportunity to play at a higher level than normal. It’s also good as you get to meet loads of different athletes from different sports and it can help develop you as a player and a person as it’s a platform to show off your talent.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “I want to help my team win. We have a strong squad that should do well if we work together as a team. My own personal aim of the tournament is to have fun and make sure my teammates are enjoying their time at the event on and off the court.”
Representing England Central is CWBA’s Sammy Rehman aka “The Beast”, the 16-year-old from Coventry, Warwickshire who is making his debut at the Games said: “It’s a good feeling to be playing at the School Games. It gives me the opportunity gel with my teammates. It’s also going to be a big step up from the level I have previously played at. Off the court, it will be fun to socialise with players from across the country.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “Despite us having a completely different team, there is only one thing in mind for us; a gold medal. Hopefully, like previous years we will become champions again.”
Representing England South is Tornados’ Tom Tobin, the 18-year-old from Andover, Hampshire who is playing in his 5th Games said: “Playing in the School Games gives me a chance to gain experience whilst playing against some of the country’s best young players. It’s also an amazing tournament which provides the athletes with so much to do in and around campus. It’s a good chance to socialise with other athletes from various sports.” When asked about the team’s hopes and ambitions for the competition he said: “I hope my team wins a medal at the event as this is my 5th and final School Games. This year we have a lot of inexperienced young squad members meaning that the experienced players have a duty to take leadership and responsibility to provide guidance for the younger players.”
You can watch live action from the School Games online at: http://schoolgamesfinals.org with coverage starting on Thursday 31st August.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, I hope you enjoyed it.
Written by Dylan Cummings