The 2018 School Games National Finals

This year’s School Games National Finals featured Silver Ambassador, Conal Blackwell. Conal’s brother Kellen, who is also a sports coach for Shepway Sports Trust, attended the National School Games event at Loughborough University and sent us this report:

“Between the 30th of August and the 2nd of September, over 1,400 young athletes took part in the 2018 School Games National Finals. This yearly event sees the UK’s elite young athletes battle it out for a chance of glory, in what for many of them will be their first major multi-sports event.

The 2018 School Games were held at the excellent sporting facilities of Loughborough University Campus. There were 11 sports in total, 5 of which included disability competition, with sports such as wheelchair basketball proving incredibly popular from a spectator’s point of view. Across the sports, the athletes competed to an extremely high level demonstrating the very best that their sports have to offer and showing exactly why they are amongst the elite performers for their country in their age brackets.

The Games saw five countries represented in total: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, England and for the first time ever Singapore, who came to compete in the Laser Run which is one of five new sports introduced for this year’s games. The university campus saw a bit of an overhaul during the Games with banners, flags and countless volunteers popping up all over the place, as well as a make-shift Athletes Village being the main location for all of the participants to rest and unwind in between training and competing.

This year’s Games were opened in spectacular style with the athletes getting to experience their own welcome ceremony with live music and dance performances as well as notable guest speakers such as Dame Katherine Grainger and Commonwealth Champion Beth Cobden. A wonderful evening was then rounded off with a mesmerising fireworks display, marking the opening of the 2018 National Final Games. Talking to the athletes, you could sense their excitement and enthusiasm at being able to partake in such an occasion, as well as being able to then see the drive and focus when they went on to perform in their sports.

The School Games was established back in 2006 and has since become a stepping stone for future Olympic and Paralympic stars such as: Dina Asher-Smith, Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock, Ellie Simmonds and Jonny Peacock. Every year the games provide the platform and competition for many young athletes to experience a high-pressure environment in which they can learn to thrive and further develop their skills ready for potential future competitions, such as the Olympics and Paralympics. The games are organised by the Youth Sport Trust and are lottery funded by Sport England who have invested over £1 Billion from 2012 to 2017 into improving and providing quality sporting opportunities throughout the UK.

Shepway Sports trust Ambassador Conal Blackwell was one of the many elite athletes who took part in this year’s games, playing in goal and representing England Red for hockey. His team narrowly missed out on a medal finishing 4th overall, in what was one of the tightest competitions throughout the whole Games, with almost every match going down to the last minute and only a few points separating all the teams at the end. Conal had this to say on his experience of the 2018 School Games National Finals.

“It was a truly special and amazing experience to be able to represent my country and take part in such a wonderful event, the atmosphere and volunteers were amazing and really helped to create such a memorable competition. All of the games were extremely close and we were unfortunate to not come away with a medal, I felt we were very unlucky in a few games, but overall the standard of hockey was exceptional. I want to thank my family for their support as well as my coaches and support staff plus everyone else who has helped me along the way and enabled me to have this incredible opportunity.”

 If you’d like to know more about Conal’s journey, then head on over to the ambassadors page.

Overall, the Games were an incredible experience and one that the athletes will treasure and remember for the rest of their lives. The Games embodied everything that makes sport so special, from the high quality and level of sport on display, to the tireless fans and supporters cheering on their teams and lastly to the amazing volunteers who helped to create an extremely professional and friendly environment that led to a genuine and special time for everyone there. I have no doubt that many of the athletes I spoke to and witnessed perform will likely appear on our TVs in a few years representing their countries at the pinnacle of sporting achievement.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on how the school games isn’t just one big annual event. In fact, right here in our own district, Shepway Sports Trust organises and runs School Games events for local schools and clubs throughout the year, including competitions in a wide variety of sports such as netball, lacrosse, cricket, athletics and many more. So, be sure to get involved and in a few years, it could be you heading off to the next UK School Games National Finals.”