Team of the Week

Each week during term time, Giles Bell - teacher of Philosophy and Theology, Admissions Tutor, Housemaster of School House for 14 years, Football and Cricket coach, Brighton FC fan and general sports enthusiast - turns both his spotlight and his wit on a different sports team within the School.

His reports are published in the weekly eNewsletters sent to parents, staff and pupils and give a good flavour of the wide range of sports at Shrewsbury and the huge enjoyment that pupils derive from playing them, whatever their level of skill and achievement.

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2017

Wednesday 5 July 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the School Shop team...

    As we come to the end of another term packed with sporting, musical, artistic and dramatic brilliance – (I can’t remember another time in my career here when we have had four different cricket teams involved in National Finals days) – I find myself wondering what it is that fuels our industrious students.

    Clearly the Kingsland Hall team have to take much credit for “keeping the army on the move”. Then there are the motivational words of Housemasters, tutors and classroom teachers, the medical skills of the San sisters and the matrons, the hygienic and germ-free atmosphere provided by the cleaning team... I could go on. There are many teams that should be highlighted and perhaps will be one day, soonish. However, it is the School Shop team that have won the last spotlight of the academic year.

    As I walked crisply through the door with other walkers, I was instantly struck by the friendly and welcoming atmosphere created by a hardworking and smiley staff, who have nothing but positive words to say about their Salopian clientele. “I have nothing but positive words to say about the girls and boys,” said Michèlle Hignett, who is the manager of the shop.

    “Nor I,” added Julie Millar “unless they dare to suggest that Liverpool are not the best team in the Premiership”. I asked Julie if she knew which newly promoted team had knocked Liverpool out of the FA cup in 1983 and 1984. She went strangely quiet and offered me a vomit-flavoured Bertie Botts Every Flavour Jelly Bean. The answer of course is Brighton and Hove Albion.

    I tried vainly to get Julie to serve up some favourite stories involving misdemeanours by staff or pupils from the past, but she stuck to her mantra of everyone being lovely. This was something all the ladies I interviewed agreed on – and if there are any pupils reading this, I would like them to know that it may be that their biggest supporters reside in the School Shop.

    I guess there is an even bigger incentive to be polite in the shop when all that stands between one and a cornetto, bacon sandwich, mars bar or bag of crisps is a brief conversation with a lovely lady, even if she is a Liverpool fan. Thinking about it, bribery works in the classroom too! A friend of mine passed his teaching practice by promising the whole class a mars bar each if they were nice. They were very nice and he spent a lot of his student grant on mars bars (or an astronaut’s favourite chocolate, as it is called by some sub-standard comedians!).

    Michèlle arrived nine years ago, having transferred from Build a bear. “It was all fluff and no substance,” she told me. “In the end I couldn’t bear it. I would drive to work in my Panda in quite a good mood but my boss was so grizzly the atmosphere was positively polar. It is so nice to work in a place where everyone is so warm and friendly.”

    There were quite a lot of potential customers deciding what confectionary to purchase, but Maria McKenzie who is in charge of Wind at Shrewsbury (and there is a lot of it), was not there as she is off on maternity leave. Some of her colleagues in the Music Faculty know her as M and M. (I think it is something to do with her initials rather than her love of rap music.) This reminded me of another poor joke. Why did the M&M want to go to college? It wanted to be a smarty!

    The shop does not just sell sweets. Euan Cooper was looking forward to a bacon butty. “I am looking forward to my bacon butty,” he told me. “I think I will wash it down with a coke and follow it up with a chocolate brownie. That should keep me going through my next two lessons until lunch.” Euan is a growing lad.

    I asked Euan if he had a joke for me. “What do you call Chewbacca when he has chocolate stuck in his hair? A chocolate chip Wookie!”

    Not everyone allows the indulgent gene free rein. Oliver Shutts told me that he likes to pop in for a cleansing glass of water. “I like the purity and simplicity encapsulated by a glass of water. I think I may have been inspired by the spiritual nature of your Philosophy and Theology lessons, Sir.”

    Ollie went on to ask me “What is a French cat’s favourite dessert?” I could not think of the answer but Ollie told me that it’s chocolate mousse!

    Nina Lange and Amy Pook were very excited by what they had purchased. Coming from Germany, Nina travels quite a bit and she was keen to tell me that she enjoys buying plane chocolate at the airport! Amy was very keen to tell me that she likes lambs covered in chocolate, otherwise known as Candy Baas!

    Sitting just behind them, Artem Stopnevich was concentrating on meditating. “I find the shop is a great place to come and switch off,” he told me. He went on to ask me, “What do you get when you dip a kitten in chocolate? A Kitty Kat bar!”

    After that I asked him to go back to his meditative state!

    It was quite clear from my visit to the shop that it is a place where pupils can relax and have a laugh.  Flora Moreau explained that she likes going to the shop because the staff are always so positive. “They all liked my fringe when I was having second thoughts about it. They also told me I had nice hand writing. My self-esteem is always higher after a trip to the school shop.” I can concur with Flora, as no one commented on my lack of hair which makes a welcome change!

    There were so many smiles I wondered if the shop staff had trained as ‘giggle doctors’. They refuted this claim but my overriding sense is that the School Shop is one of the happiest places on the site and much credit must go to the marvellous team who spread the love in there. They did admit to doing quite a lot of counselling, and I suspect if you really want to know what’s going on at Shrewsbury School you need to spend some time in the Shop.

    By the way, what kind of candy is never on time? – ChocoLATE!”

    I hope you all have a very happy and smile-filled summer!

    The School Shop staff team are Michèlle Hignett, Julie Millar, Tasha Alldritt, Petra Gwilliam, Mohamad Hami, Beth Lane, Margaret Foulkes, Mary Smith and Caroline Wetherby and they are all very sweet!

    GJFB

Thursday 8 June 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the School Gardeners.

    If you are a regular reader of Team of the Week, you may have come across the Groundsmen before in their role as protectors and nurturers of the school pitches. Most of the gentlemen featured have another side to them. Despite their rugged Wild West outdoor look, they are actually very keen on flowers and the sweet smells of a summer border.  For some reason I am getting images of the Lumberjack Song from Monty Python flashing through my mind.

    When they are not whispering sweet nothings to geraniums or pruning the rhododendrons, they can be found having a cup of tea in their porta cabin watching Jeremy Kyle on a small TV. It was here that I tracked them down to dig deep into their horticultural expertise and find out how they have been coping with the variable weather and all the plants in their care.

    The first question I had to ask was, why Jeremy Kyle? There was a general agreement that this was the choice of Adam Davies. Adam and Joe Harrison are on a 12-month apprentice scheme to give them a chance to hone their skills and gain some experience as they begin their careers in the world of horticulture.

    Mark ‘Clint’ Ironmonger feels that before these young men forge their career paths they need to know what may come their way. “It’s a jungle out there and I’m here to clear it,” he told me in a calm yet assured manner. “Mr Kyle’s show is part of their education; it will help them see the wood from the trees.”

    There was a general nodding of heads at these wise words as they sipped their tea. I wondered if they ever watched Gardener’s World. Stuart ‘Lee Van Cleef’ Edwards informed me in a grizzled drawl that he enjoyed it very much. “I enjoy it very much,” he said. Andy ‘Rooster’ Cooke is more into Spring Watch, but did enjoy the coverage of Chelsea this season.  Andy is an ex-professional footballer and coaches the School Under-16A side, so I was not surprised to hear this.

    On the subject of Chelsea, I asked if anyone had been involved in a show garden and Stuart was quick to show me a picture of the garden that he helped build, which won a Gold Award at the Shrewsbury Flower Show in 2013.

    It was called ‘Sweet Dreams’, and was inspired by a poem written by a young girl. The garden cleverly creates a children’s floral paradise of sweets and butterflies, surrounded by a picket fence in ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ pink and white. It was raising money for the ‘Make-a-Wish’ Foundation, which grants magical wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.

    I have a feeling he might have found his inspiration elsewhere...

    I then asked these tough outdoor gentlemen what projects they had been involved in recently. Apart from a few bank jobs, they informed me that they have recently been digging by the tennis courts to create a new border there. I asked if I could travel with them and in no time at all we arrived there. I quickly surveyed the scene and although I am no expert, I thought I could spot some potentilla, heuchras, aubrietia, santolina and an acer.

    I then went to find Brian ‘Casey’ Jones. Actually I think it would be more accurate to liken Brian to Mr McHenry from The Magic Roundabout. Certainly he is difficult to find, as his natural habitat is a greenhouse near Oldham’s but located behind a tall hedge with a secret entrance.

    Brian has been at Shrewsbury for 25 years and has witnessed quite a few changes in that time, the most recent being the new look to the area around Quod and the Art School. “I think Stuart is finding it hard to adjust to the new terrain,” he told me.

    Brian is currently preparing some of the displays that we will see on Speech Day, although he is keen to point out that the team try to ensure that the gardens look nice all the year round!

    I think we all agree that they have succeeded in their aims and that this posse definitely all have green fingers.

    The full team are Jon Lloyd, Phil Mold, Andy Cooke, Brian Jones, Richard Jones, Dominic Murray, Adam Davies and Sheriff Andy Richards.

    And if you haven't already read the Team of the Week feature I wrote last year, revealing some of the trade secrets behind how the these amazing men and their mowing machines manage to keep the sports pitches in such tip-top condition, come rain, wind, hail, snow or drought, or if you can't quite remember one or two of the finer details and turns of phrase, then fear not because you can find it here: Giles Bell's Team of the Week number 46!

    GJFB

Thursday 25 May 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Boat Club.

    The National Schools’ Regatta takes place this weekend. Hence when I sauntered down to the Boathouse this week, I found myself surrounded by busy water boatmen and women. I don’t mean the type that eat algae and minute aquatic organisms that I used to catch when pond-dipping with my prep school Biology teacher ‘Time bomb Tenby’. I am referring to the crews that were busy preparing their boats for their journey down to the Eton Dorney Lake, where this year’s action is taking place.

    The first crew I came across were the 2nd VIII consisting of Jake Elliott, Don Vincent Hickey, (whose proud claim to be the biggest in the boat I will not debate), Sam Russell, James Joseph, Bryce Rutter, Morton Moss, Max Craik, Artem Stopnevich and cox Immy Rooney, who is renowned for keeping the crew on the right course. The crew clearly have a great deal of respect for Immy and she is renowned for demanding a high level of mental and physical toughness, exemplified by her refusal to allow them to speak by frequently stating “you can’t say that”. Coach Miss Milanova is full of praise for her crew and is hopeful of a medal. “I am hopeful of a medal,” she told me as she clutched her metal detector in her right hand.

    The Under-14C crew were noisily confident. Amos Cheung was quick to talk up his crew’s chances of victory. He told me that with crewmates as awesome as Tim Levin, Will Unsworth, Jasper Yipp, Christian Loumidis, Will Owen and Euan Parr, there was no danger of defeat. Coach Dr Oakley has come up with numerous mathematical equations to which the answer is always ‘gold’. He told me that “on paper the Under-14Cs are a very fast crew”. Maths was never my strong point, but I noticed there were not quite enough names for a full eight. Dr Oakley informed me that his crew have a tough equation to solve before Friday at which point the name of the mystery crew member will be disclosed. I hope I copied it down right. I think it was 7+ mc = 8 (mc= mystery crewman).

    The still aptly named Matt Rowe loomed into view; he is one of the few students I look up to! Matt told me that he and Barney Fox (who is not known as Basil Brush) are ‘Going for Gold’ in the Pairs’ race on the Sunday. With the rest of the 1st VIII, Rory McKirdy, Zander Lister-Binns, Alex King, Sam Branford, Matt Hedges, Matt Farrow and cool controller cox Tom Shiels. they are also going for a medal on the Saturday. There was a steely determination to force their way into the top four, thereby getting a good draw for Henley. I sensed a particular enthusiasm to beat Eton. The crew speaking as one, which was very impressive and a little unnerving but showed what great unity there is in the boat, explained why they had lost to Eton earlier in the season.

    “Our race plan was to be behind Eton at half way but we found ourselves ahead, and realising we were not delivering our race plan we completed a 360° spin to allow Eton the lead. We were then a little dizzy and unable to catch Eton up. We have decided not to spin on Saturday,” they told me.

    Coach Sam Grant told me that he likes the crew to feel he is always on their shoulder. “I always feel that I am being closely monitored by Mr Grant,” Rory McKirdy admitted.

    I sensed confidence within the crew as we chatted and wondered if there was anything they were doing in training that was giving them a lift. There was general agreement that Barney Fox is susceptible to placebos. “These are not Smarties but go-faster vitamin pills that look and taste just like Smarties,” Barney said as he tucked into a handful of brightly coloured chocolate buttons.

    “For me it’s all about esprit de coeur,” said Matt Rowe. Alex King thought that the training was important and Zander Lister-Binns thought success was down to extra coxing. The rest of the crew were unanimous that it was down to the beetroot shots they take on a regular basis. I asked Mr Grant what was special about beetroot he told me, “Beetroot is just a vegetable really.” Rumours that his family own a beetroot farm are unsubstantiated. Matt Hedges was able to tell me that drinking beetroot juice after exercise reduces muscle soreness and helps your muscles recover, according to new research from Northumbria University, published in this month’s European Journal of Applied Physiology. The authors also suggest that it is good for your liver, lowers blood pressure and is packed with nutrients. The rowers all think it is disgusting and it can lead to interesting colours after various ablutions!

    The only colour the rowers are interested in this weekend is a golden one. Tom Shiels told me that he is hoping that his crew will not be affected by cross winds at Dorney. It is important to be in a good lane and that means a quick time trial time. He was keen that I did not make any jokes about winds, beetroot consumption and jet-propulsion. Nothing like that has crossed my mind.

    Every crew is hoping for a medal, but the whisper is that the Under-16As, the Under-15 girls and the top three crews are our best bets. There was a general concern that the level of beetroot consumption might go up if they didn’t perform well. Having tried some for breakfast this morning, they have my sympathy and I very much hope they ‘beet’ everyone else!

    GJFB

Friday 19 May 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Under-15 Girls' Cricket Team.

    This may come as a surprise to some of you and please do not fall off your chair and injure yourself in the process or write a letter of disappointment to the Governors, but on occasions I can get distracted from putting pen to paper and relating tales of sporting triumph from Shrewsbury School.

    I am sorry to have let some of you down; it’s not something I am proud of and I confess I am ashamed of my lack of will power. Perhaps you will forgive me when I tell you that the reason for this afternoon’s distraction was the T20 cricket match involving the 1st XI v Wolverhampton Grammar School. I admit that I may have had a glance at the scoreboard from time to time, but clearly I am far too busy to have watched the entire Shrewsbury innings and seen Jamie Crawley launch a six on to the roof of the swimming pool. A ‘friend’ told me we scored 145, which was thought to be a little below par as we had been 70-1. Another ‘friend’ told me that George Garrett took a hat-trick and that Wolverhampton were struggling at 36-6.

    It is now looking like a comfortable win for the home team at 50 for 7 and I can return to my desk in a less distracted frame of mind, to concentrate on another successful Shrewsbury cricket team. The Under 15 Girls’ Cricket Team have recently returned from a trip to Lord’s. They had won through to the National Finals of the Lady Taverners Indoor Cricket Competition and played a round robin tournament against Felsted, Old Buckenham High (a specialist sports college), South Dartmoor College and St Aidan’s Church of England High School from York. In a tight competition, we finished runners-up, which is impressive as the competition had over 900 entries.

    To find out what the ingredients were for such a successful side, I caught up with Captain and all-rounder Issy Wong enjoying a spot of lunch with teammates Laura Elliott and Lara Ockleston in a trendy Shrewsbury eatery known as Kingsland Hall. Issy began by telling me that the most stressful part of the whole tournament was sitting next to inspirational coach and motivator Gwen Davies. “I think it would be fair to say that Gwen was playing every ball and that she won’t be painting her nails for a while, or at least not until they have grown back,” Izzy told me. Lara noted that some of the umpiring decisions did not seem to be having a calming effect on the normally shy and timid young Somerset player. “I reminded Gwen that the umpire is always right, thinking that would be of some comfort to her,” Lara told me. “I am not sure she got as much comfort as I was hoping,” she added. “That’s cricket,” Laura wisely interjected.

    I asked the lunching ladies what they had enjoyed about the tournament. Laura was pleased with a four that she hit and that England star Sarah Taylor said that she had “good banter”.

    Issy was pleased for Laura as she knew that Laura had been working hard on the vocal element off her game both with Gwen but also with the Grove House team, especially Mrs Wilson, Mrs Temple and Matron Bulaki. Laura told me that the only negative part of the trip was the lack of personal hygiene emanating from another customer in the restaurant where they had supper. This situation was partially improved by the distraction of seeing Miss Davies being mistaken for Mrs Bradburne’s daughter and asked for ID by the waiter. At this point it should be noted that Mrs Bradburne is in no way related to the great Australian batsman Sir Don Bradman.  Mrs Bradburne is an expert in hockey and netball and she nearly knows the rules of cricket. Rumours that she was hoping to buy some holy water at Lourdes are without foundation.

    The 1st XI have won by 58 runs, yet another ‘friend’ just told me.. There is also a large crowd appearing to watch the heats of the Sidney-Darwin Dash...

    ...and is that Mr Cooley on top of the swimming pool retrieving the ball hit there by Jamie Crawley?

    Talking of hitting sixes, Vice-Captain Amelie Davies told me she is an angry batswoman. “I am an angry batswoman,” she told me. If she misses a ball she gets enraged and almost always hits the next delivery for six.

    I caught up with Amelie as she attended a training session in the indoor centre. I asked her how she had found the trip to Lord’s and four hours later she finished her literal retelling of the journey down to London. Despite some fascinating insights into modern teenage culture, I have had to move swiftly on. Amelie did tell me that her dad took her into the Long Room at Lord’s where she saw a picture of Sarah Taylor, which she tells me is the first picture of a woman cricketer in the Long Room.

    From my chat with the team in the nets I picked up that it was Issy Wong’s birthday and she was delighted with her runner’s-up medal as a present. The medals were large and solid silver – at least Amelie thought they might be, but Chemistry is not her strong point. Some people in London seemed intent on giving the team evil stares. Laura Elliott is getting close up to London buses. Alice Hughes is the team comedian. Ellie Kynaston enjoyed her breakfast at the Travel Lodge and Georgia Kannreuther and Molly Mathews have been to Lord’s before with their Packwood team.

     

    Georgie Nicholas wanted to pay tribute to the coaching team: Gwen Davies is aided and abetted by her friend Evelyn Jones who is a member of the Women’s England Senior Academy and a member of Lancashire Thunder (the Women’s T20 team as opposed to the men’s team Lancashire Lightening).

    Although I may have been prevaricating today, I sense that these young cricketers underneath their sunny dispositions are a focused, steely and determined bunch. “We are going to win the National Under-15 Girls’ Outdoor Competition now,” they all said; and I believe them.

    Congratulations to the whole squad and their coaches!
    GJFB


Thursday 11 May 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the U14C cricket team.

    Having dwelt on the senior cricket team last week, an opportunity arose to examine how things are going for the most junior team in the school hierarchy. Andrew Barnard, our Master in Charge of Cricket, is a very wise man and he has ensured that future senior cricketers are well looked after in the lower echelons of the School. Not for our Under-14Cs a clapped-out member of staff well past his prime who over-estimated his limited abilities as a cricketer. The Shrewsbury Under-14 Cs are blessed with possibly the most successful coaching duo since Brian Clough and Peter Taylor took Nottingham Forest to European glory. Mark Roberts is a renowned Welsh cricketer who puts the cricket into Criccieth. (There aren’t many English towns that resonate so soundly of the beautiful game.) His demonstration of genuine fast bowling in the nets on Friday afternoon will live long in the memory and may help to explain why every member of the team bowled on Wednesday in the local derby with Shrewsbury High Prep. And Giles Bell is renowned for his cricketing cunning and once played in the same team as former England Captain Nasser Hussain. “I was a very good scorer and Nasser Hussain was a very good batsman; I am very cunning,” I said.

    The Under-14Cs have played four games so far this season, losing the first two and winning their last two. The coaches work very well together and are delighted with the steady progress of the team. “We are heading in the right direction,” Mark Roberts told me as he drove off to Wales.

    A number of well-known statisticians have noted that Shrewsbury have won all the games that Giles ‘Dickie’ Bell has umpired this season. I wondered if that had caused the Master in Charge of Cricket any sleepless nights. Andy Barnard, the ‘Gandalf’ of Shrewsbury School cricket, told me he had not lost sleep over this issue. “I have not been dreaming of Mr Bell recently,” he stated. “‘Dickie’ Bell has only given one LBW decision this year and is honest as the day is long. He was an excellent 12th man in his playing days but those days are over.”  Mr Bell denied that he was intimidated by his team’s bowlers’ aggressive appeals. “They are all very polite young men and I have no concerns for my welfare. None of them are here now are they?” he said in an anxious and nervous manner.

    However, sections of the opposition crowd on Wednesday were unhappy with a controversial LBW that accounted for Shrewsbury High Prep's top batsman on Wednesday, as they could not hear the appeal. “I had to explain that the team are a very well-mannered outfit and that the polite request by fast bowler Ed Craik was not audible to anyone more than a few feet away,” Dickie Bell told me.

    Other sections of the crowd questioned Ed Craik’s age, wondering if he was in fact Middlesex and Ireland opening batsman Paul Stirling. Ed was quick to dismiss such allegations. “I am not Paul Stirling and I am not 26, although it is a credit to Mr Bell and Mr Roberts that people have mistaken my fluent batting style and frighteningly quick fast bowling for that of an international cricketer. It’s amazing what two top coaches can do in a few net sessions,” Ed told me. Other players have also been complimentary about their coaches.

    Rhys ‘send the ball’ Woodward scored 75 against Repton last Saturday and was delighted to hit his first ever six at Shrewsbury High Prep School. “To score a six makes all the drills we have done in the nets worthwhile. I would never have achieved this without the superb coaching we get from Mr Bell and Mr Roberts,” Rhys commented as he wiped away a tear of joy.

    Henry Dong and Milton Tai are enjoying the opportunities to hone their skills, and Henry Dixon, Billy Watkinson and Andrew Maxwell have all performed to a high level this season, making their all-round performances difficult to ignore when it comes to team selection.

    Jonty Gould used to go to Shrewsbury High Prep and he helped the team exploit the pitch in exactly the right manner. “I am just glad I was there to interpret the conditions for the lads,” Jonty said. His interpreting of the conditions led to a 31-run victory in a closely-fought contest in which cricket was the winner, and the youngsters from Shrewsbury High Prep could be proud of their brave performance against such a well-coached outfit.

    Captain Ed Bayliss was delighted with the team effort. “I am delighted with the team effort,” he told me. His highlight of the season so far has been dismissing his younger brother in the Packwood encounter. “It is important to have something in the locker to use when communicating with one’s siblings and I will always be able to refer to this moment,” he smiled.

    With two matches for the C team squad on the same day this Friday, the players will be stretched! One group will be going to Birchfield while the other team are taking on Prestfelde at home. There is an air of quiet confidence amongst these cheerful young exponents of the game. Let’s hope the rain does not put paid to their chances of more glorious exploits!
    GJFB

Thursday 4 May 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the 1st XI cricket team.

    As the blossom is carried gently on the warm spring breeze spreading out across the outfield like a soft sprinkling of petally potpourri, the sound of leather on willow once more transports those of us who are under the spell of the cricketing muse to Elysian Fields of wonder. I have been looking forward to this season more than most, possibly because I have just finished reading Jonathan Agnew’s book on Johnners. In the same way that if I had read a book on King Arthur I would now be acting in a chivalrous and courageous manner (I suspect some people must think I am endlessly reading such literature), I now want to play and watch cricket as it should be played. After all, as ‘Aggers’ points out, in which other sport would you find an instruction to play the game “in a gentlemanly manner”?

    My poetic and perhaps idyllic views were quickly shattered not only by the North wind and the hail that came with it but also by the protestations coming from various visiting teams on the cricket field. I will not name names, but a team we defeated early in the pre-season tournament were certainly not content to allow their cricket to ‘do the talking’. Personally, as many of you probably appreciate, I have never been one to speak when there is no need. Encouraging teams to ‘make some noise’ has always felt somewhat false. It’s a bit like that moment when after a somewhat tedious speech one feels obliged to ask an inane question to fill the void. I could never get it right at school. I was regularly admonished for not taking the game seriously enough when chatting and then reprimanded for not making enough noise when I stopped chatting and took the game seriously. You can never win! Although, rather like the Shrewsbury 1st XI, we often did!

    In terms of my time management, cricket is a lethal game to watch. I ‘pop out of my office’ to take in a few overs and two hours later I realise it will be another late night if I want to complete all the ‘targets’ that I had set myself for the day. I think it is almost more addictive than reading intellectually stimulating works of literature or preparing award-winning lessons (some of my other vices).

    I recently decided to put my intellectual passions aside for a few minutes to see how the new-look Shrewsbury School 1st XI was shaping up against the Shropshire under-19 side. I immediately wandered into an Orchard I had not noticed on Top Common before.

    Dan was watching his friends trying to defend a slightly below-par total of 124 in 35 overs. Such was Dan’s concern for the team that he offered Charlie Byrne the use of his bike to aid his pursuit of a well-struck ball.

    The grounds looked in immaculate condition and I hope that Head Groundsman Andy Richards and his team were not upset when the 1st XI captain George Garratt was heard to say “Come on lads, it’s a bit too flat out here!” I guess there are worse things a groundsman could hear, such as “the plague of moles is expected to arrive at Shrewsbury school in the next two minutes” perhaps.

    In terms of the match I was watching, the Shropshire team were making heavy weather of their diminutive target. This was largely because of the diminutive Peter Clark (Fourth Form) (or should that be Clark Minimus?), who was busy taking his second five-wicket haul of the season, much to the delight of his father Matthew, who had ‘popped out of the office’ to watch the cricket for an over or two.

    Peter had also made a major contribution to the demolition of Millfield in a pre-season tournament game which we won, also defending a relatively low total.  Peter was being well supported with some athletic fielding by his Shrewsbury teammates who, frustratingly for the coaching team, would have won the game had they batted better.

    I caught up with ‘new’ Shrewsbury School cricket professional Adam Shantry, who was watching on from the dressing room with recently retired ‘old’ professional Paul Pridgeon. Adam used to play for Northants, Warwickshire and Glamorgan. He admitted to scoring a century against Leicestershire and taking five wickets against New Zealand, including that of Brendon McCullum.

    Adam told me that he had asked the boys to score some runs and bat responsibly. “I asked the boys to score some runs and bat responsibly,” he said. He felt that the plan was clear and that our batsmen were aware of what was required, but that unfortunately the Shropshire bowlers were not aware of the plan. Paul wisely advised Adam that in future he should let the opposition know that he had asked the batsmen to score some runs. “It is a game played in a gentlemanly fashion and quite frankly it is very rude to prevent batsmen who have been told to score runs from doing so. In my career I frequently allowed the opposition batsmen to score a lot of runs off me.”

    Despite losing the game by two wickets, there were many positives to be taken from the fielding performance. However, Master in Charge of Cricket Andy Barnard was finding it difficult to find them. “They are not under this chair,” he affirmed.

    He told me that he would pull up another chair and have a good chat with the team, analysing where mistakes had been made so that they would never happen again. “We will sit down and think about what went wrong,” he said. Mrs Barnard mentioned that Mr Barnard frequently has to sit down to think about where things have gone wrong, and that he generally gets up in a better frame of mind.

    I enjoyed popping out of the office for a few minutes and can see myself doing it again, such is the attractive brand of cricket played by this excellent team.  Incidentally, Adam Shantry was born more recently than both Mr Barnard and Mr Pridgeon and he has therefore an understanding of modern media. If you want to watch the 1st XI games, they are now being streamed live via the Shrewsbury School TV YouTube Channel. Watch this space!

    Before I go, I must just mention that I popped out of my office again today to watch the Girls’ under-18 team play their first ever match on home soil. Coach and Somerset Ladies star Gwen Davies told me that she has disguised herself as the 1st XI team mascot and that she places herself on the window sill pretending to be a gnome.

    “No one notices me and I pick up all sorts of coaching tips,” she told me. “I told Moreton Hall that our batswomen wanted to score some runs today and it worked a treat. They were very generous to us and we won by 8 wickets.”

    Clearly the courteousy of cricket means we are in for a great season from now on!

    GJFB

Wednesday 22 March 2017

  • Team of the Week
    This week, Lacrosse.

    Lacrosse is a sport I have never played and, if I am honest, probably never will. But that does not mean that I do not have a great respect for those who do. “I do I do I do,” as those wonderfully sophisticated lyricists of Abba would say. Not that I don’t respect their ability to write deep and meaningful lyrics in a second language; “I do I do I do”! (Before any of you think of deriding my favourite pop band of all time, how are your Swedish lyrics, eh??)

    I watched the lacrosse training sessions from the top of the bank, overlooking the ‘arena’ as I shall call it. This was partly to give me an elevated view of proceedings but also partly to keep my over-exposed pate clear from even more damage. The ball was flying around and there seemed little concern from the players for the photographer and wordsmith in their midst. Or perhaps Coach Fenella Nicholas has her troops so highly tuned that they are unable to notice any distractions for fear of making an error and wandering from the game plan. Sometimes you have to go where most sports journalists might fear to tread, if you want to gather the best action shots seen at a lacrosse training session since last year’s lacrosse Team of the Week article – which I strongly urge you not to look up, in case the material is at all similar!

    The Junior team have had a good season, including finishing sixth in what was described by Mrs Nicholas as a “fast and furious tournament” at Moreton Hall. I notice that on the school website it says that “the girls played to their utmost and executed all...”. That does give you an inkling into the brutal nature of the game.

    It was at this point that I began to think of my family and escape. I was beginning to creep away when I was hailed by a stormtrooper who suggested I take a picture of her. Not wishing to incur her wrath, I obliged.

    There are rumours that Mimi Mason-Hornby was inside the helmet, but I cannot verify this fact.

    Actually I can. Araminta Plumptre, who has two older brothers whom I looked after very well when I was in School House (whatever the family says), told me that Mimi was in fact a very good goalkeeper and not an enemy of Yoda.

    Georgia Kannreuther who, along with Poppy Collingwood-Cameron, Mary Lees and Georgie Nicholas, is a fine goal-scorer then had to sit down having been hit in the head. Amelie Chaplin was keen to look after her as she is a very caring girl. “I am a very caring girl,” she told me.

    Annabel Naylor, who is a very fine wielder of both a lacrosse stick and a paint brush, was keen to show me a depiction of the game at its most fluid. Annabel is one of five Shrewsbury girls who have been picked for the County B team, and Georgia Kannreuther and Poppy Collingwood-Cameron have been selected for the A team.

    Annabel was just about to put the finishing touch to a move of extreme intricacy when Laura Elliot was injured by a stray stick. (No one was quite sure whose stick it was or even if there had been contact.) Laura was clearly in some discomfort, but I was very impressed by the concern shown to her by the rest of her teammates.

    After a few minutes of ‘treatment’, Laura bravely decided to get up and carry on. She has clearly not been affected by the tendency to ‘dive’ in professional football. “I am not a diver,” she told me. Annabel and Araminta both explained to me that there is no place for diving in lacrosse. “There is no place for diving in lacrosse,” they both said together.

    The Senior squad were out training soon after the Juniors. There were fewer of them at practice than usual, as many of them were preparing to watch the 1st XI football team in the County Cup final at Telford. They are a very talented group of players, and Mrs Nicholas was impressed by their dedication to the sport as they gave up their Coach Weekend recently to travel down to Guildford for the National Lacrosse Championships. 

    Those of you who went to support them will have enjoyed the tournament, as – according to their coach – the girls played some of their best lacrosse of the year, “with everything slotting into place at the right time”, which is very important in lacrosse. I asked Mrs Nicholas if she used the Lego training manual, but she denied this.

    Clemmie Baynes and inspirational Captain Imo Luczyc-Wyhowska deserve a mention. Clemmie because she is a goal machine and my tutee and Imo because she, like Annabel Naylor, is also a fine artist who brings her artistry to the game.

    I left the pitch feeling lucky to still have my health and with even more respect for these brave ladies who laugh in the face of danger!
    GJFB

Friday 3 March 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Fives.

    Having walked all the way down to the river and then back up again to bring you news of rowing successes for my last Team of the Week piece, I felt I owed it to myself to go a little closer to my office this time.

    One of my nearest sporting venues is the Fives courts. My ex-English teacher and distinguished OS Ken Shearwood has a picture of the Fives courts on the back of his book ‘Hardly a Scholar’ filled with top hats and books, whilst presumably the owners of these artefacts were deep in prayer and reflection in Chapel.

    Such a scene can still be found, with the exception of the top hats, as the present generations still pay their respects to the Divine before lessons on Tuesdays and Fridays. However, you would be wrong to think that the Fives courts are just some glorified file, book and pencil-case depository. Most afternoons the courts are seething with athletic endeavour as players of all shapes, ages, genders and sizes battle out games that seem to go on for ever, especially when it is cold, under the watchful eyes of Master in Charge Seb Cooley and his team of master tacticians.

    Mr Cooley reminds me of another diminutive general, Napoleon Bonaparte. He likes to win and he has a look of steel in front of those friendly and twinkly eyes. Although I have to admit that that is where the similarities start to diverge, since Mr Cooley is not French, has two arms, does not wear a three-cornered hat, nor aspire to control most of the Western world (as far as I know), ride a white horse, go to Russia for his winter holidays. And he is very very good at Fives (World Champion, no less).

    Having established that Mr Cooley is not very similar to a nineteenth century dictator, I wondered how he felt the Fives squad was shaping up. Mr Cooley felt the Fives squad are shaping up very well and this article could now end at this point. Yet I know how many of you have come to depend on a more analytical and in-depth analysis of our Salopian sporting gods and goddesses.

    I told Mr Cooley that I was going to probe him for further information. (At that point he began to look a little worried and the information began to fall from his lips like a veritable torrent.)

    He admitted that he was a little frustrated that a couple of fixtures had been cancelled this term, but he was proud of those players who had performed so well at the Northern Championships. Dan Orchard and Mr Cooley reached the semi-finals, defeating OS pair Ed Taylor and Sam Welti before losing to the eventual winners.

    Mr Cooley is confident that his talented group of top players, Max Morris, Tom Bromley-Davenport, Tom Brunskill, Sam McLoughlin, Adam Aslam-Baskeyfield, Dan Orchard and Josh Himsworth, can perform to a high level in the National Championships at the end of this term. I asked Dan Orchard what it had been like playing with Mr Cooley in the Northern Men’s Championships. Dan told me it had been an amazing experience to play with one of the world’s top Fives players. “It was an amazing experience playing with one of the World’s top Fives players.” He went on to tell me it is something he will be able to tell his grandchildren, although he admitted that he may well embellish it a little, as of course in a fairy story Dan and Mr Cooley would probably have won.

    Tom Bromley-Davenport wanted to tell me that Fives had a really cool image around the School. “When I say I have done a lot of court time, one or two people seem to think I am quite hard.” Ed Stapleton only plays Fives for the KitKats. “Mr Cooley has explained to us how important KitKats can be and as Fives players we are encouraged to have ten a day now (fingers that is). I think Mr Cooley thinks that a finger of KitKat can strengthen our actual fingers,” Ed told me. (Currently the Fives team do not have any nutritionists working with them).

    The girls’ squad is also in a good place. Izzy Wong and Adelaide Sillar won the Plate at a recent tournament in London and a number of pairs performed well in the Ladies’ Open competition in London last weekend.

    Top pair Nina Lange and Sophia Breese were hoping to bring back some silverware. “We are hoping to visit a jewellery shop in Kensington,” Nina told me. Apart from their purchases, they also came back with the Ladies Plate trophy, having lost to the winners of the main competition early on. Other successes involved the mighty Ella Windle and equally mighty Georgie Nicholas, who came second in the Ladies Festival. Whilst at Eton the boys had success against Highgate on the Saturday but not quite so much against the home team.

    Lizzie Ware, Phoebe Wasdell, Libby Hedges, Abi Watkinson, Katie Oswald and Emma Graham have been training hard, as the Girls’ coaches Andy Barnard and Gwen Davies run a tough regime. “Mr Barnard is quite tough on us,” Katie told me “although since he has heard that Rod Stewart is coming to do a concert in Shrewsbury his mood has lightened somewhat.”

    “I think Rod Stewart and Mr Barnard may have gone to school with each other,” Lizzie Ware added.

    “We really enjoyed our tour to London,” Emma Graham said. She likes the camaraderie when they go on tour. “I like the camaraderie when we go on tour,” she said. “We turn up the music in the minibus and someone usually has a Little Mix of sweets to hand out; Miss Davies calls us the Sugar Babes but we don’t eat that many sweets. As its only Girls allowed at this competition there are no mixed pairs. We are hoping to put in a good performance in London. Mr Barnard has told us we need that extra Three Degrees of effort if we are going to be known as the Supremes.”

    Libby Hedges is looking forward to a team curry. “We all like a curry and Mr Barnard calls us the Spice Girls!” Sophia did say that she was pleased to get back to the safety of Shrewsbury, as Slough is not as salubrious as one might imagine.

    To conclude after all my research: it would seem that Fives at Shrewsbury is literally in good hands!
    GJFB

Friday 10 February 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Rowing.

    I am frequently distracted from my computer screen or from some serious tome that I am perusing by the cheerful chatter of dazzlingly lycra-clad figures marching purposefully past my window on their way to or from the river. There is a clear confidence emanating from such types, and I find myself envying their youth and their mental strength: it is clear from their physiques that they are able to say no to seconds of brandy butter. As I reached for another finger of fudge to complete the second hand last Tuesday, I decided it was time to follow the lycra trail down to the Boathouse and see just what the attraction was.

    My spies had informed me that the rowers had been busy last weekend at Wycliffe Big Head on the Saturday. And then on Sunday many of them had travelled to the velodrome in Manchester to participate in the English Indoor Rowing Championships. My heart was gladdened to see the Giles Bell (coincidentally a boat with the same name as me), speeding down the river powered by the J16 crew, but it was unnecessary of Harry Marshall to quip that he had never seen Giles Bell move faster!  

    Third in their event on Saturday at Wycliffe and winners of the English Indoor Rowing Championships last Sunday, Director of Rowing and J16 Coach Athol Hundermark was very impressed with the progress his crew have been making. “I am very impressed with the progress my crew have been making,” he told me.

    There was clearly a confident and cheerful mood amongst the crew and coach, although the training session looked as if it had taken more out of some than others, as Mr Holehouse struggled to get to his feet.

    Chad Usher pointed out to me that if he features in this article, he will have been in three Team of the Week articles this term – a hat-trick of appearances. He was disappointed not to make it into the netball article. “It’s a shame I don’t play netball,” Chad told me.

    The senior boys were split into three eights and all of them performed well. The top crew won their event and were well clear of Abingdon. Indeed, cox Tom Sheils was concerned for the mental health of some of our opponents. “They may need some counselling," he admitted. “After all, when someone with spindly little arms like Matt Rowe is managing to beat you, it must be demoralising!”  Matt is hoping that his spindly little arms will be strong enough to help him and Barney Fox into the GB squad as they prepare for trials soon.

    The other two Senior boats also did very well, and a team from the Top Squad came third in the Indoor Rowing Championship J18 event on the Sunday.

    The Senior Girls four won the J18 Quads at Wycliffe, and that did not surprise me, as I nearly bumped into joint Head of School, Alys Howells, carrying her boat around as if it were very light. “It is very light,” Alys said.

    The J16 girls came third in their event and are doing extremely well, and the J15 girls won their event in a very good time. They also came third in the J16 category on the ergos. I am not surprised the J15 girls are doing so well, as four of the squad - Ella Fox Davies, Lucy Lovick, Lauren Bermingham and Hattie Haynes - are my tutees and so of course they are keen to discuss mental strength and training tips at tutorials, with a top sportsman. I think the addition of hot chocolate and the occasional lolly or piece of cake have given the girls extra energy.

    However, they may have over-estimated my river skills when Lauren suggested I might like to cox a tutee four. An opportunity suddenly arose to cox the J15 girls’ eight, courteousy of their inspirational coach Will Reynolds. I was of course was up for the challenge and flattered that my steering skills were rated so highly, although as the water was apparently already ‘heavy’, I was a little concerned that I might not make the sport any easier for the crew. Reports concerning the record height of the prow (front of the boat?) are yet to be substantiated. What I would say is that despite the fact that I am looking for a new sport to take up and this one involves sitting down, I am not sure I am built for coxing and I am certain that the modern rowing boat is not built for coxes of my stature.

    I was flattered that the girls had every confidence in me and were happy to trust me. Stroke Hattie Haynes found her view was more obscured than usual but was clearly not concerned by the sudden change of personnel, and Lauren Bermingham was very kind after I had steered into a swan, three otters and the open water swimming team, suggesting they should have got out of the way.
     
    The J15 boys came second and the J14s had four octuples racing, with the boys coming in first and second and the girls third in their event.

    The Boat Club would not be such a happy and thriving place were it not for a host of talented and enthusiastic coaches. Sam Grant is coaching the top squad this year and he was quick to enthuse about his protégés. He also talked me through some of the extra requirements of the modern committed rower. This involves all sorts of cardiac monitoring and also answering a questionnaire in the mornings about sleep and checking heart rate. The coaches can know if an athlete is likely to be unwell in a few days’ time from these results and moderate the training to suit the ailment! I can’t go into too much detail about our programme as we would not like our competitors to glean information that could help them to beat us. I can assure you that Shrewsbury rowing is cutting edge and still awesome!
    GJFB

Friday 3 February 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Netball.

    There was competition for this week’s Team of the Week slot as Reggie Bell played his first ever sporting fixture. He donned the tags for a game of touch rugby as Prestfelde Under-9s took on the might of Shrewsbury High Prep. The massive crowd were enthralled by a highly athletic and disciplined game played at a furious pace. I spoke to a number of spectators who had managed to find a ‘window of opportunity’ to sneak away from the office and watch their favourite player. All of them wished to remain anonymous and I was only watching as I went out to post a letter which suddenly leapt out of my grasp, (it was a very windy day), and was blown all the way to Prestfelde where I finally managed to retrieve it. I have decided not to mention that game however, as many of you will have watched it on Sky. Instead I will be concentrating my attention on the Shrewsbury School netball squads. 

    I needed no such gust of wind to propel me to the netball courts earlier in the week, where I was a  significant percentage of the crowd that turned out to catch the end of senior netball practice, followed by Under-14 and Under-15 matches against Thomas Telford. (Thomas Telford School, not Thomas Telford, as he no longer graces the netball court of life and from what I can gather was not renowned for his goal shooting or defending anyway.)

    I was introduced to the recently recruited Karen Hall, our new coach. I didn’t stay for her team talk as that was a bit ‘Longmynd-ed’ (Coach joke alert)! Karen is well known in Shropshire Netball circles. Indeed her name keeps popping up again and again, possibly because she runs her own netball team called ‘Recycles’. I asked her for her first impressions of Shrewsbury School netball. She told me that the top squad can run four teams and have great strength in depth. She felt that few schools could run so many teams at such a high level and she was delighted by the enthusiastic and positive attitude to the game to be found among the participants. “I am delighted by the enthusiastic and positive attitude to the game found among the girls at Shrewsbury,” Karen said. Lower down the School she feels there is real talent, as evidenced by the Under-14s reaching the Midlands Finals and the Under-15s being undefeated in their age group this season.

    I was lucky enough to witness Karen coaching some senior girls who are so enthused by the game that they had stayed behind for extra training. Club Captain Eily Kerr told me: “I am enthused by netball. Extra training is just so much fun, I wish we could do it all day.” Eily is a gifted Philosophy & Theology student and admitted “I can’t ‘Plato’ often”! She went on to say, “I am proud to be involved in such a talented, happy and positive squad of players.”

    Another keen exponent of the game, Orla McCormack, was working on her defensive technique. Orla recently won the Senior Wind Prize on her saxophone and she is certainly in tune with Karen. Orla can be likened to a whirlwind, as she engulfs her opponents in a storm force gale of defensive manoeuvres. “There is nothing like a good winding,” she told me.

    Mima Price, who is first team captain and an ever-present member of the first team throughout her distinguished time at Shrewsbury, clearly loves her netball. “It is something I love to do when I am not playing the clarinet, working on my A level art or looking forward to a deeply academic and intellectual conversation with my tutor.”

    Another devotee of the game, Sophia Price, was keen to tell me how much she enjoyed playing with her big sister. “It is wonderful to be in a team with such an inspirational player as my sister”. “It’s my birthday soon,” Sophia added. “But really there is one person I have to thank for honing my skills and that is my dad, Brian. He just loves netball and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the game.”  Both Sophia and Mima are goal shooters for Shrewsbury. It would be fair to say the Shrewsbury goals come at a fair price!

    The Prices are ably supported by midfielders Molly Stokes and Amy Pook, whilst Veronica Parr and Amelia Maunder help goalkeeper Julianne Hinwood keep the Shrewsbury net free of goals.  There are others I should mention as the squad rotates regularly, but time dictates that I move to the lower echelons of the netballing ladder.

    The Under-15 team were taking on Telford without top shooter Amelie Davies who was gutted not to be playing. “I have no gut any more, I am so gutted” Amelie told me. Poppy Collingwood Cameron is the other main source of goals and she was in fine form, helping finish off the excellent team play with goals that any famous netball shooter (such as Russian star Haveagoyah Poppemin), would be proud of. Despite the setback of losing Georgia Kannreuther to a serious scratch on the hand from a nasty fall (which was extremely well attended to by the medical team who utilised the first aid box to the extent that it is conceivable that every single yard of bandage and sticking plaster in Shropshire will need replacing).

    The team won convincingly, 22-8, with fine performances from Eleanor Nibblet, Mary Lees, Marie Nuthjen, Artemis Cooper, Laura Elliott, Katie Ford and Izzy Lewis.

    The Under-14s were also missing some key players, with Georgie Nicholas and Eddie Hargraves out injured. Annie Middleton was strong up front and Liv Usher, Ellie Kynaston and Phoebe Morris were resolute in defence. However, they went down by 1 goal: 8-7.

    Coaches Emma Kelly, Katie Marriot and Nicola Bradburne were quick to praise all their teams but mentioned that the attitude in the Under-14s is first class. “These girls listen to advice and will therefore improve,” said Mrs Bradburne.  Alice Hughes told me, “I am quite prepared to listen to our expert coaches. I have been trained very well in such skills by my Philosophy & Theology teacher.”  Daisy David and Catrin Heath are also good listeners. Elisabeth Edwards is too.

    It is clear that netball is a popular and vibrant sport at Shrewsbury, although rumours that the local knitting group are going to sponsor the coaching team have been denied by Head of Girls’ Sport Nicola Bradburne. Sam Shantry was just being nice to her husband Adam, who has just finished an ECB knitting course (to help nervous cricket coaches stop biting their nails as they watch their teams for hours on end!).

    GJFB

Thursday 26 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Rugby 1st XV.

    As it is only a week or so before the 2017 Six Nations Rugby Tournament kicks off, I thought I would venture onto the recently renovated turf of Bottom Common to see how our own rugby enthusiasts are shaping up.

    The Shrewsbury rugby revolution is currently being spearheaded by historian Chris Cook, who has been coaching here for over a decade now. With a small but talented and enthusiastic squad, Chris has taken the sensible decision to organise one match a week, to allow more time for technical work on the coaching ground and to give any injuries time to recover. To help him improve his players, Chris thought long and hard about who to turn to and then remembered that his dad had recently retired and that having been in the England squad in the 1980s and coached to a very high level, he might be able to help out. The rumours that he was worried that his dad might get under his mother’s feet at home are entirely without foundation Peter told me. “I would never get under her feet, she is much smaller than me.”  I have discovered that when Peter is not helping with the coaching here, he is moonlighting as coach to the Leicester Youth team.

    I tried googling Peter Cook’s credentials but I could only find references to his career as a comic actor.  He was by all accounts an extremely influential figure in British comedy, and was closely associated with the anti-establishment comedy that emerged in the UK and the US in the late 1950s.

    In terms of the coaching of rugby at Shrewsbury, it is “not only” Peter “but also” Billy Harding (who may be shorter than Peter). Billy assured me his name is not really Dudley, but I note he plays for Stourbridge which is quite close to the West Midlands town of the same name! I would hate to be the harbinger of a new nickname for Billy but I sense ‘Dud’ might stick!

    I asked Rob Ford, who very kindly agreed to have a breather from training, how recent performances had been. He told me that in the recent fixture with Christ’s Brecon, the team battled back from 24-0 to finish strongly and the final score was a creditable 24-19. I asked Rob why he felt they had started so slowly. He told me that after a long and wiggly drive to Brecon, the team stayed on the bus. “After a long and wiggly drive to Brecon we just stayed on the bus for the first half,” Rob stated. I try not to criticise our teams but I did think that the coaches and players should have realised that not starting the game on the pitch could lead to problems in terms of trying not to concede points. Clearly the situation improved when they finally got off the bus and onto the pitch!

    I then caught up with the ‘Chef’ coach Chris Cook. I asked him for an assessment of the progress his team are making. He was very happy with the way the squad are developing despite the bus fiasco. “I had to give the team a bit of a roasting after the Brecon game. I was steaming when I had a chat with the lads at half time, although I never let my emotions boil over. I just told the team they had to turn up the heat second half and give their pack a good grilling. We had wave after wave of possession second half – and I am not talking microwaves!” I asked Chris whether he had a settled team. “We try not to chop and change too much but sometimes the lads have other commitments which can grate at times.”

    The chef de rugby was keen to praise some of the leaders in his team, notably Ed Plaut, Oli Dixon and Cameron Bates who have encouraged the younger members of the squad and led by example.

    The younger members of the squad, when playing as the under-16s, remain undefeated in three years and recently defeated Repton 1st XV. Harry Remnant and Jacob Jefferis have made it into the Midlands team at representative level and have enjoyed being chauffeured around the country by Mr Percival who is a committed sous-chef!

    There were plenty of smiles on the faces of the players at training and it is clear that the rugby squad are in in good shape. I think it would be fair to say that Rugby is well done at Shrewsbury!
    GJFB

Thursday 19 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Shooting Team.

    I announced in last week’s Team of the Week that I have retired from running.  I would like to thank all of you who emailed to try and encourage me to renege on this tough decision and to continue ponderously to lead British distance running in a new direction. Your love and enthusiasm has made me question whether to totally hang up my trainers, as I know there is a small amount of talent yet untapped. However, I have been looking around for a new sport in which to dominate and I think I have found it! It is a discipline that involves lying down and keeping still, which seems perfect for someone looking to slow down from the high speeds that until recently I have been posting when on foot.

    I have never spent time with a World Champion before, but that is what I found myself doing on Wednesday afternoon as I popped into the rifle range to see how the Shrewsbury School Shooting Team were doing against Ellesmere College and Sedbergh School.

    Tom Rylands has represented Great Britain and England and is currently a member of the World Championship-winning Long Range Shooting Team.  He has been coaching here for four years and was a boy here a few years before that. His younger brother Mark (OS) is Bishop of Shrewsbury and clearly felt drawn to prayer when he realised how avidly his older brother enjoyed playing with guns! Tom assures me he merely enjoys shooting at targets and is not currently on any wanted list – apart from shooting coaches’ lists. He told me that Mark also enjoys shooting, and so the heathen had better watch out. The Rylands family are very much part of the Salopian family, as Tom’s dad Michael was here in the 1930s – and Tom is not sure that the rifle range has changed very much in that time.

    Tom is also coaching the Ellesmere College team and so he was very keen for the Shropshire-based schools to defeat Sedbergh, as was rising shooting star Hattie Bramwell (EDH LVI), who used to be at Sedbergh but transferred to Shrewsbury in the summer – and has since ‘shot’ to fame as our top markswoman.

    Hattie’s next few holidays have been sorted out, as she is off to South Africa to represent Team GB Under-19s at Easter and then she will be in Canada all August with the British Cadet Rifle Team. I asked Hattie about her success and what her targets were. She told me that she is happy shooting a .22 rifle here at school but she prefers full-bore rifles which she shoots at Bisley, as they are bigger guns. (I met some Salopians in the weights room who would like bigger guns too!)

    At this stage I began to rethink my new sport as I don’t want to be introduced in social situations as a ‘full bore’ enthusiast. Who knows who you could end up next to? Hattie tried to dispel my concerns. She went on to tell me that to be a top shooter it is important to be disciplined, as one is handling something that is quite dangerous. She also admits that dedication and calmness under pressure are required. I wonder if she has already been approached by the Secret Service.

    I also asked Hattie how she had got into the sport and she told me that her mum was a keen rifle shooter. Perhaps it is no surprise that Hattie’s two brothers George (R IV) and Arthur (R III) are also in the Shooting Team. I think it might be important to approach the Bramwells’ house with a certain amount of caution, respect and wearing a high visibility jacket.

    The captain of the Shrewsbury team is Marcus Bruce (Rt UVI). Marcus managed to avoid being photographed (slightly worrying in itself), but I can tell you he was the smartest competitor on the range. He was wearing a pinstriped suit and shiny shoes; I hope that he has not beeb watching The Godfather on repeat! He scored the highest score of the day (195/200) as Shrewsbury’s first four won with a score of 756/800. The rest of the squad is made up of Chad Usher (S LVI), James Weir (O V), Elias Harrison (SH LVI), Jonjo Wood (R III) and Oliver Taylor (R III).

    There is a youthful look to the squad, but Hattie would like some female company.  So if there are any girls out there who would like to get out of the exertions of hockey, running and lacrosse, you know who to see. A quick glance at my watch and I realised I had to shoot off!

    I left the rifle range reassured, knowing that Shrewsbury shooting has never been healthier and that other schools will be looking down the barrel when they come up against us!
    GJFB

Friday 13 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Hunt.

    If, like me, you had an overindulgent Christmas and New Year, you may have resolved to strap on your trainers and squeeze into that figure-hugging lycra for a few gentle jogs before getting into some serious training for the next charity fundraising epic. This year my New Year’s resolution is to retire from running, for a number of very good reasons.   My retirement appears to have not yet been picked up by the sports journalists, but I would expect a little newsprint coverage soon – along the lines of ‘what a great loss to the sport’. Looking for some words of encouragement from a colleague when I told him of this momentous decision, I was shocked when he stated that for “big-framed individuals” such as myself, running – although an easy option – was probably not a good idea, as it could only lead to physical damage for someone carrying a few extra pounds and not exactly in the first flush of youth. He suggested to me that I “get on my bike”!

    Even if I were thinking of pounding the streets again, I generally like to ease myself into my New Year’s fitness regime – unlike those whippets in the Hunt. The ‘running camp’ prior to the start of term began on New Year’s Day near Rhyader in the heart of Wales, where the first run began (and ended) on the 1st of January. Oooh! I am not sure that would have been good for me. But Master in Charge of the Hunt Mr Ian Haworth assured me that all was and were well during and at the end of the run.

    The Hunt have been training hard for a competition they won last year under the guiding hand of Peter Middleton, who has now been moved ‘upstairs’ to ensure that running gets preference over all other sports and activities. (He is Master in Charge of Balancing Work and Play – or ‘Deputy Head Co-curricular’, as grown up people call it!). The Knole Run takes place near Sevenoaks and is a major national event in the schools’ running calendar. I remember Mr Middleton being emotional last year after his runners brought back the cup in fine style – possibly because winning is something that Mr Middleton was not as used to as some! Mr Haworth said that he likes to think of himself as a little tougher than his predecessor and he won’t be crying if we win. “I like to think of myself as a little tougher than my predecessor. I only cry if I lose, as I am not used to it,” he told me.

    I sense that Mr Haworth is quietly confident of our chances of success. I asked him if the rumours that he has been hacking into other school computer systems to check on the times of rival runners were true. He looked shocked at such a suggestion but did admit he knows what sort of times our runners should be aiming for if they want to win. I wondered if he had been aware of any other schools spying on us. He told me he had made it difficult for that to happen as the Shrewsbury Hunt team have been training late at night in a secret location. I was lucky enough to travel with the team to ‘sense’ them running in the dark.

    It did not make for good pictures, but I did feel a breath of wind when the squad came past. At least I think it was our athletes and not a small herd of deer, a flatulent cow or a low-flying dementor.

    With a week to go before the event, last Saturday the Hunt travelled to what I like to call my summer residence: Attingham Park. The forecast for Kent suggests there could be mud and possibly snow on the ground this Saturday, but Mr Haworth does not think any conditions will put off our elite speedsters. He was pleased with the performances he witnessed, with Freddie Huxley- Fielding coming second overall and winning his age group category by a long way.

    Chasing Freddie in was Will Hayward, who finished 2nd in his age group and 5th overall.

    I caught up with Tom Hughes, who is a substitute for the weekend event for a ‘view from the bench’. Tom had run at Attingham and was delighted that Shrewsbury won the under-17 team event. He and his fellow runners ran as a pack and finished 7th, 8th, 9th 10th and 11th. He laughed at my suggestion that the team had run in a line, making it difficult for others to pass them. But he did think this was a tactic that could be employed in the future.

    Tom is a good example of how success breeds success. He started running in January last year. Up until then he had been a footballer gracing some of the lowlier school teams. As his style did not seem to be attracting the manger’s eye, he decided a change was needed. He had noticed his dad had started running and thought he might join him, not just because he thought he could beat him! He enjoyed it and decided to try and get better.  Mr Haworth is very pleased with his progress and it was a tough call to leave him out of this weekend’s squad. Tom is philosophical about the situation and has not been trying to injure anyone to take their place. (At least he is not admitting to it!) I complimented Tom on his philosophical attitude to life in general and he explained that as an Everton and Shrewsbury Town fan he has learnt not to have very high expectations.

    The squad have all been training hard this term and their week looks something like this:-

    Monday: Track session involving interval training.
    Tuesday: 10-15k run in the countryside around Shrewsbury.
    Wednesday: 7am strength and conditioning session which is good for working up an appetite for breakfast.   An afternoon run of some kind.
    Thursday: Rest day
    Friday: Speed work often in the hills.
    Saturday: Race or day off to watch the Town
    Sunday: Optional long run.

    In the holidays Tom has stayed fit and runs with his brother or dad. He does not join his mum for ‘village’ tennis.  Personally I think I might go for the tennis option.
    He takes his running seriously and has incorporated some advice from Gavin Smith, who has coached Olympic Medallists, World Champions and World Record Holders and spent a week at the School last term as Coach in Residence.

    He also listens to Mr Haworth and Miss Walker, both of whom know a bit about shifting!

    Lauren Walker is in charge of the girls’ running this term and she has a very young very talented squad for Saturday. Only two of them are Sixth Formers and so the future looks very bright.

    I am running out of superlatives for this amazingly talented bunch of athletes. I think I have come to the finish. Let’s hope they have Mr Haworth in tears of joy on Saturday evening! He is not that tough really!

    GJFB

    The Knole Run squad...

    Boys:
    Niklas Amthor (R LVI)
    Cameron Anwyl (S LVI)
    Monty Hardcastle (I LVI)
    Scott Hatton (S UVI)
    Will Hayward (R UVI)
    Seb Hervas-Jones (S UVI)
    Freddie Huxley-Fielding (R UVI)
    Seb Ingram (S LVI)
    Tom Jackson (R IV)
    Owen Mock (R LVI)
    Louis Nares (Rb IV)
    Toby Pegge (PH V)
    Harry Remnant (Ch V)
    Charlie Tait-Harris (S UVI)
    Sam Western (PH IV)
    Lucien Whitworth (R LVI)

    Girls:
    Liza Alekseeva (EDH IV)
    Anna Cowan (MSH IV)
    India Eaton (EDH LVI)
    Immie Evans (G LVI)
    Francesca Harris (EDH III)
    Libby Hedges (MSH V)
    Lucy Lees (EDH III)
    Lilian Wilcox (EDH IV)