Westway Summer of Fives

Zach Hickmore reports:

02/09/21: Over the month of August 2021, the Eton Fives Association coordinated a summer camp for local children aged 8-16 at the community Eton Fives courts at Westway Sports and Fitness Centre.

Supported by grants from the Young Kensington & Chelsea Foundation and the Kusuma Trust, John Lyons Charity and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, we were given the opportunity to provide free multi-sports activities and healthy lunches to all participants.

Overall, we had 55 unique registrations from 20 different local schools, with 37 of these children attending the camp for at least one session. We regularly had between 12-16 children in attendance each day, with 16 being the maximum to fill all four courts. The camp was run from Monday to Thursday each week, from 10am until 3pm. With four weeks dedicated to Fives, with lunchtime football and wallball, the children progressed from two-wall tennis ball rallies through to full games by the end. Healthy lunches were provided by the sports centre’s café, Crussh, and our own Zach Hickmore spoke to the children about various healthy eating and nutrition topics, particularly surrounding fuelling your body for sport and exercise.

Various coaches brought their expertise to the courts, with Lucy Craughwell-Franks, Josh Schreinen, Ed Vaughan-Hughes, Mike Till and Dan Thackeray covering the majority of sessions. Guest appearances from Jonny Ho, David Mew, Chiedo Nkwo, Freddie Prickett, Charlotta Cooley, Hugo Young and John Reynolds added variety of expertise to the fun and ensured we were well staffed throughout the camps. None of this would have been possible without the high-quality coaching from all involved. Westway has serious potential to generate Fives players, and we need great coaches to engage with potential players like they did on this camp.

“Eton Fives is fun, it’s just fun to hit a ball around and see where it goes”- Ibrahim, 11.

“Being here has stopped me from just sitting on the couch all month. Holidays can be like that quite easily if you don’t have something planned.” – Jack, 15.

“I had never played before, but now I can’t wait to come back on Saturdays and keep playing.” – Mohammed, 9.

The project came to an end with a day trip to Eton College from Westway to play on the courts there. The children were all very excited for this, with a parent commenting on the final morning, “he tried to get to sleep early last night, but he was just too excited. He has loved the sessions and could not wait for the trip today.”

The real success of this project has been seen in the engagement of the local community in playing fives. We had many first-time players, with most of them never having seen or heard of the sport before. To continue the momentum we have generated, those that attended and signed-up for the summer camps will be allowed to join Saturday morning sessions at Westway free of charge (thanks to the support of our donors). These sessions will integrate the group that have joined us over August, with regular players of a similar age that play locally at Westway. This offer stands until October half-term (and potentially longer) where we hope to replicate some of what we have done in the summer.

Additionally, this initiative has given us a fantastic case study to look at how we can engage more with the locality, engage with new demographics and appeal to sponsors to allow this to happen for those that cannot afford it. There is an ever-present need in the area for physical activity options for young people, a need that we have barely scratched the surface of. Yet, in scratching the surface we have uncovered many possibilities to provide a sport with a range of mental and physical health benefits to people that would never have heard of Eton Fives. Trying a new sport, that none of your friends play, with no role-models in the media or money to be made and to choose to come back again and again just goes to show that all participants have genuinely enjoyed their time during our summer camps.

A special thanks to Mike Till (staff coordination), Stefan Ferencz (fundraising and marketing) and Dan Thackeray (coaching and Westway liaison) from the EFA for their contributions.

Onwards and upwards. Fives for all!

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