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On Friday 06 March, the Bury School’s Partnership organized the first annual Suffolk Youth Tchoukball Festival. The event was hosted at the home of Bury St Edmunds Tchoukball Club, the Victory Ground.

Schools from around Bury St Edmunds and the local area, took part in this event with a focus on skill play and enjoyment of the sport. The East of England region's centre of excellence, King Edward VI School provided the referees and officials.

Eight teams took part from four schools, all of whom have been introduced to Tchoukball by level one coaches Mike Harman, Lois Rollin and James Sturgeon. Westgate Primary School, Guildhall Feoffment Primary School, Hardwick Primary School, and Sebert Wood School all competed, with each school providing teams of Year 3 into the festival.

James Sturgeon, Bury Schools Partnership co-ordinator said:

"This festival is the culmination of the hard work put in by all of our coaches this year. With some schools having only played Tchoukball for a month or two, the quality shown has been fantastic."

Mike Harman, Lead Regional Development Manager for Tchoukball UK added:

"Having so many youngsters involved so early on with Tchoukball can only benefit our sport and it’s development. The excitement from the students is echoed by the coaches and volunteers from the other schools who have said that they would want to arrange fixtures between themselves."

The festival focused on skills development, in particular shooting. Instead of points scored, shots attempted were taken into consideration, and outcomes were determined by which team shot the most, regardless of shorts or points scored. Mike Harman commented:

"We choose to go down this route purely to put each team on a level playing field. Some schools in this tournament have been playing for two years, whilst others for one month. We want students to enjoy this sport. I know of other sports that put an emphasis on winning, and so whilst they may gain the very best in their field, they lose a high percentage of young players early on which stunts their growth as a sport. Already the non-contact, fast thinking aspects appeal to staff and coaches, but it’s playing the game and developing an understanding of Tchoukball that has appealed to the students involved today."

Hardwick Primary School came away with the overall win, just edging Westgate into second. Looking ahead for the future, an earlier tournament may allow teams to qualify for the Tchoukball UK Youth Championships, and plans for a Secondary school tournament are already being formulated.

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