Reading Festival of Sport @ The Abbey, Monday 20 – Wednesday 22 June

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Reading Festival of Sport @ The Abbey – what a week it has been! In this article, we will be reflecting on the significance of the events held over the first few days of the Festival, giving you an insight into the jam-packed timetable, before concluding in next week’s issue on the remainder of the week. This includes our Sports Awards evening and the finale of the Festival; our Saatchi Gallery exhibition focused on an array of trail-blazing sportswomen.

Monday 20 June

We couldn’t think of a more perfect start to the Festival than to kick off with a short trip up Kendrick Road to Reading Bowls Club on a beautiful summer’s day. Supported by a team of coaches, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Robert, demonstrated the perfect technique to our Sixth Form students. Meanwhile, two of our Senior School gymnasts, Zoë (Upper V) and Tiggy (Lower VI), accompanied Mrs Sikorski to the Junior School to work with Lower Prep, who were very excited to learn the progressions for a backflip! 

Upper II also had the opportunity to learn from Senior School athletes, as they supported an athletics session on the astro; the Upper II students worked on their javelin technique as well as long jump, high jump and hurdles!

The school community has been treated to talks and performances from some of our sports scholars each lunchtime to celebrate their expertise in their fields and learn from their varied experiences. Hannah (Lower VI) started us off perfectly, sharing the key moments of being a National level pistol shooter and reflecting on some of the main learnings she has discovered in her career so far. She spoke about how progress is not linear and that perseverance is key – as perfection is often not realistic – as well as discussing how self-confidence is important in picking yourself up when things don’t go well. Such mature and honest reflections will no doubt provide invaluable guidance to our younger students. 

We celebrated more athletics in our afternoon lessons and we were delighted to be joined by  Reading Athletic Club coaches, who gave our students even more specific and technical coaching to improve their skills across the running, jumping and throwing disciplines. 

Tuesday 21 June

Laura (Upper III) performed her energetic aerobic gymnastics routine to a full audience in the gym on Tuesday. Our students were amazed to see the intensity of the routine and the high calibre skills involved. Laura also answered questions on how she became one of the best performers in the UK, how she trains, and her ambitions for the future. 

Following this, Lower IV and Upper IV had an excellent time participating in rugby, volleyball, hockey, netball, weightlifting and athletics! 

Players from Reading University Volleyball Club showed our students how to understand the positioning and roles of each player on court, before guiding them through a series of passing, receiving and serving drills. All our students made so much progress thanks to Aryn, Olga and Lydia; some even wanted to stay into their break time to practise serving.

We were thrilled to be joined by Olympic rugby player, Emma Uren, to experience a session under her expert guidance alongside Reading RFC coaches Fraser and Michelle to develop further understanding of tackling and passing – maybe we have some rugby stars in the making! It was such an awesome experience for our Abbey Fourth Form to learn from a Team GB athlete.

We also had the pleasure of CrossFit Reading joining us for a session of weightlifting on the mini astro. The expertise of one of their coaches, Tom, allowed Upper IV to develop an understanding of the technique for deadlifts and snatches. 

Mr Stuart-Thompson also led an exciting session on hockey skills. Students were challenged to rack up as many points as possible across five stations. Rumour has it, England Hockey bracelets were also up for grabs!

The netball session for Upper IV involved an England netball challenge! Although there were mixed results, the group worked well to communicate together as a class and in small groups. 

Wednesday 22 June

Sophie (Lower V) spoke to a number of younger students in the lecture theatre about her journey as a figure skater; all the way from her first competition aged 8 to securing her place on the Elite Development Pathway for British Ice Skating. She spoke about the realities of sport and how it is not always ‘Instagram perfect’, as well as providing guidance on the balance between training intensely, resting the body and managing injuries. 

Competitions – basketball and netball shooting, cricket bowling and cycling

It was fantastic to see so many students and staff attend our lunchtime challenges. Basketball and netball shooting, as well as a timed challenge to see who could take the most wickets, were well attended! We also undertook the task of cycling to Alexander Stadium in Birmingham! Winners of all competitions will be announced next week and the exact distance we managed to cycle will be revealed. 

The Festival of Sport @ The Abbey has celebrated sport in so many ways this week; those who want to move their bodies for fun, those who want to train for elite goals, those who want to try something new, those who want to help other people achieve their aims and those who have had to fight to be there. All of us at The Abbey believe that there is something out there for everybody. However you may describe it; a sport, an activity, a hobby, an exercise; whether that be intense competition or leisurely recreation, fast or slow, we hope the Festival of Sport @ The Abbey has given you an insight into all the options available to you and what your belonging could be. 

The PE and Sport Department

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