James Hanks (centre) spoke to children from Magdalen Court and St Michaels schools about his rugby career.

Former Chiefs player inspires local children through Sporting Stars

Recently retired Exeter Chiefs rugby player, James Hanks, traded the pitch for the classroom this week as he spoke to almost 100 children from Magdalen Court and St Michaels schools at the fifth University of Exeter Sporting Stars day of 2014.

Run at the Sports Park on Streatham Campus and organised by a student committee, Sporting Stars days are designed to educate and inspire children in the field of sport.

A University of Exeter Alumnus (Exercise and Sports Science, 2006), and former first team player himself, James explained how he had first got into rugby and his experiences since joining the Chiefs in 2005 before answering the children’s questions.

 “I wanted to talk to the children a little about my career and what it’s like to be a professional sportsman to help fuel the ambitions that some might have.” He said. “It’s good for the children to hear what it’s actually like, the highs and lows. Most people only see you play for 80 minutes on the pitch, but weeks, months and years of work go into that match.

“Hopefully they will be inspired by that.”

Following the talk, the children were split into groups to enjoy a day of sports-related activities, making use of the Sports Park’s extensive facilities to try squash, tennis and free-running as well as benefitting from physiology, nutrition and movement workshops.

“It’s great and they [the children] were really excited to come up”. Commented Magdalen Court Principle John Jenner.

“Sport is really important; children are much less active today which is a problem across society, so it’s important to encourage them to be active in sports and demonstrate that there are lots of ways to get involved.

“Having students here helping, who are closer to their age, really enthuses the children. It’s also inspirational for them to see someone like James Hanks who is at the top of their game and find out how they got into sport. Finding out that he started at the same age as them is very motivational.”

Sporting Stars is one of several projects, delivered by the University of Exeter’s Athletic Union, designed to help local children get into sport and works alongside the Social Sport in which student volunteers help coach in P.E lessons and after school clubs.

Sporting stars coordinator Meg Russell explained: “Sport is a key element of life for many students at University and we want to help inspire the next generation by giving them the opportunity to try sports they might not otherwise get the chance to.

“The response we’ve had from local schools has been tremendous. Visiting the Sports Park lets these children see the kinds of environment that high level athletes train and compete in, and it’s brilliant to have the likes of James come down to talk about their first-hand experiences. It’s been a fantastic day.”

Date: 2 May 2014