Leytonstone visits Cambridge

Nic Walker reports

29/07/19: It was hugely gratifying that in the final week of my two-year Teach First placement at Leytonstone School, East London, I was able to take a group of 22 pupils (aged 11-16) to Cambridge and introduce them to Eton and Rugby Fives.

After a number of years the school had decided to reintroduce its 'enrichment week' in the last week of term - a great opportunity for teachers to share expertise and interests with their pupils beyond their usual remit. I had taken the same group of pupils to Greenwich and the Bank of England earlier in the week so Cambridge was, undoubtedly, the apogee of our three days of enrichment! After a tour of King's College and lunch by the river Cam, the party walked (via the Sidgwick Site, to see some of the faculties) all the way to West Cambridge. Despite some inevitable gruntings about the distance we had had to walk, the site of the indoor courts at the imposing University Sports Centre nullified any previous signs of pupil weariness.

James Powley, the amiable Head Squash Coach, was an excellent host and the pupils responded well to his introduction to the basics surrounding hitting technique and serving/cutting. Pupils experimented on both the Rugby and Eton Fives courts and made the most of the opportunity to access all the courts. The session culminated in a round robin tournament of Eton Fives (first to 7) played entirely on the bottom step against the left and right walls. About half of the pupils opted into the tournament without hesitation and were keen to play their games and register scores in a timely fashion - a testament to how quickly they had warmed to the game. There were some pulsating rallies and some very promising play was displayed in general. It was also encouraging that there was an even spread of male and female competitors and the bottom step format made it possible for the younger pupils to challenge their elders. The other teachers on the trip also tried their hand, with much evident delight! The day was a reminder of the ability of Fives to transcend some of the usual discriminators in sport - age, gender and even experience. Many of the pupils left Cambridge realising that they could put their hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes to good use on a Fives court. It was of course with great regret that I shared with some enthused pupils the following day that East London is a bit of a wasteland as far as Fives courts are concerned. I hope to see some Fives courts emerge in E11 or the environs in the future, as the human capital is undoubtedly there!