South Yorkshire youngsters are very good sports - swapping their school uniforms for PE kits to take part in the Sainsbury’s School Summer Games.
More than 800 children from schools across the county put their sporting skills to the test as they competed in the finals of the annual school sporting event, held for the first time in Barnsley.
Nigel Harrison, chief executive for South Yorkshire Sport, said: “This is such a fantastic day, the culmination of lots of school qualifiers to get the best in each sport here representing their district.
“London 2012 was obviously a great inspiration to all these kids and we run the schools games like an Olympic-style event - with an opening ceremony, the games and medals.
“Games like this are so important for school-age children, teaching them about winning, losing, and the importance of getting involved and working together as a team.”
The event is South Yorkshire’s biggest and most prestigious schools sport event.
The games saw primary and secondary school children from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster compete in cricket, golf, tag-rugby, lacrosse and tennis at Horizon Community College and Shaw Lane Sports Club yesterday.
The Mayor of Barnsley, Ken Richardson, officially opened the event.
He told The Star: “It’s a real boost for Barnsley to host these games here - we have these great facilities so this is our chance to shout about them.”
Nick Bowen, chair of South Yorkshire School Games and Principal at Horizon Community College, said: “We’re extremely proud to be hosting the event in Barnsley and the games are an important way for pupils to showcase their talents, while learning important values like teamwork.”
Team GB diver Monique Gladding was there, to inspire the young athletes to train hard and aim for their dreams.
The athlete lives in Sheffield, and trained at Ponds Forge last year ahead of London 2012 where she competed for Great Britain in the 10 metre platform event.
She told The Star: “I remember my first sports day and how that really lit my passion and set me on the path towards a career in professional sports. I wanted to be here today to help these kids build their confidence and see how special sport is and what they can learn from it.”
Stuart Marsden, aged 16, from Horizon School in Barnsley, said: “It was great to take part as I love playing sport. Taking part in the cricket was my highlight of the day.”
Christine Jepson, a teacher at St Albans school in Wickersley, said: “We’ve got 10 children competing in golf today and they’re so excited to be involved.
“Days like this are very valuable for teaching passion, determination, honesty and teamwork to our youngsters.”
And the day wasn’t just about celebrating those with athletic talent, as several students came along to show their support as cheerleaders and even as members of Horizon Community College’s samba band.
Vicky Stead, 33, from Barnsley, said: “My son William is playing in the samba band who are here to entertain the crowd and keep the atmosphere going.”
This year, the South Yorkshire Sainsbury’s School Games programme also includes orienteering – a standalone event which will take place at Wentworth Castle in Barnsley tomorrow.
Paul Howarth, a teacher with Horizon Community College, added: “We’ve got pupils competing in sports and playing in our samba band, as well as a number of students working as volunteers to keep the day going.
“We have about 300 children in all, each working hard in their own area, and that’s what this is really all about.”