World champions, Olympic medallists and world record holders all showed their support for tchoukball this week as two players from Bury St Edmunds Tchoukball Club met up with Colin Jackson, Beth Tweddle and Peter Waterfield. Bury pair Ian Parker and Lois Rollin met the former athletes at the Suffolk Physical Education and School Sport Conference in Ipswich where the sporting legends were the guests of honour, sharing their passion for sport with teachers from across the county.
Parker and Rollin were also working hard there to promote tchoukball in an area where interest and demand for the sport is high. As well as interesting teachers from across the county, tchoukball made a strong impression on Jackson and Tweddle. "They are inspirational figures so for them to be so interested in tchoukball was incredible" said Parker. "Colin had a queue of people asking for photos and autographs but at the end he came up and spent 10 minutes talking to us about our sport, even though he needed to be on a flight to Prague. He loved the idea of men and women playing together, and the mixed ability, all age nature of the game."
Jackson – who is still world record holder for the 60m hurdles - also wished Team UK well at the World championships in August. In his speech he was keen to promote the importance of positive feedback as a coach working with children - even when giving criticism - something Parker said he would take back to his own sessions. The pair also got a chance to speak to former world champion and Olympic bronze medallist gymnast Beth Tweddle.
"She was just so nice and really supportive of our sport," said Rollin. "She was really keen to watch videos and see the sport in action."
While hobnobbing with sporting elite is all well and good, the Bury pair had an important role to play at the conference, getting tchoukball into schools. Parker said: "We had lots of interest from teachers which was great to see. Surprisingly lots of schools had heard of the sport and many even owned frames, but they just didn't know what to do with them. It told me that we desperately need more coaching courses in this area. We try hard to get into schools ourselves but we can’t reach everyone. However, if you provide a course and teach 20 different teachers, you then give them the skills to take it to their school. That has surely got to be better than providing a one off session for a class of kids that will probably never get to play it again."
Richard Jackson, Operations Director for Tchoukball UK agreed:
"The way forward for teaching tchoukball is to empower schools to take on the sport themselves and deliver it with the support of our clubs. Ian and Lois have shown great leadership in getting that message out there."