Saturday, 6 October 2012

My MAD Weekend part 2 - getting Set4Sport with Judy Murray

Judy explaining Set4Sport to the parents
After a fab night on Friday at the MAD Blog Awards, I woke up on Saturday morning early with a dry mouth but thankfully, no hangover. (And no hiccups - I'd had hiccups for about an hour before I went to bed, but thankfully sleep cured them!)

After a shower and a breakfast, I said goodbye to everyone and left the hotel for London Zoo. Not your average venue to turn up at with a trolley case, but I had a purpose. I'd been invited to an event where Judy Murray, mother of Andy, was to demonstrate her ideas for getting kids active and practising the skills they need to be good at sport.

When I was first invited to this event, I knew I couldn't say no. I was in London anyway, so why not? I had time before my train to get there. I am a huge fan of Andy Murray as well. The only problem was that the children weren't able to come with me as they were still 200+ miles away at home.

On arrival at the venue, the Mappin Pavilion in the middle of the zoo, I went straight to find a place to put my case and coat. Who should be a few feet away but Judy herself. Within seconds, we were shaking hands and chatting. We actually got talking about Myleene Klass and how lovely she was. Then I told her that I had lived every moment of the US Open final that Andy had won just a couple of weeks before, and she told me that she got really worried when it went back to 2 sets all as she was worried he was going to lose. I can sympathise with that - you always want your child to do as well as they can in such situations and you want to protect them at the same time. Judy was really lovely and friendly - I felt she was as genuine and lovely as Myleene had been.

After a brief introduction, everyone started to try out the games that had been set out at stations around the room. This is when it became slightly odd for me as I had no children to watch, or play with so I just watched from the sidelines and generally felt a bit of a spare part. I don't have too many photos of the event because I didn't want to take pictures of other people's children but I did get one when the children were busy eating food.

The premise of Set4Sport is that when Judy's boys were young, she developed games to play with them and without realising, helped to develop their coordination skills. This was even before she trained to be a tennis coach - Judy is from a sporty family so it was just natural to her to play games with them.

The games in the programme help to develop what she calls ABCs - agility, balance and coordination, which are critical to all physical activities, as well as passing and catching for ball sports. Developing the skills at an early age gets children set for sport but also helps confidence and self-esteem, as well as learn how to set goals and challenge themselves. Everything is designed so that most of the equipment you need, you probably already own. Everything can be learned without going to gyms, clubs or without a trainer and so are very low cost activities.

Watching the children play the games set out reminded me of when my children used to go to a club called Storybook Sport which is very small and very local to us. Monkey was one of the first children to take part in classes and Missy Woo joined in, even though she was only two when she started. They only stopped going when they got too old. During the sessions, the group leader Scott would tell them a story and the children would be part of the story using standard sports equipment to do various activities involving running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching. They loved every minute of it, and it definitely helped them as it was noted that they both had good coordination when they started school. I even managed to tell Judy about it during the latter part of the session when she came to ask me if I had any questions about the programme. I think Scott was amazed when I told him on Twitter a few days later that I'd told her about it!

After everyone had had fun trying all the games, they demonstrated how you could set up a tennis court at home using canes for the lines and tying some string or rope between two chairs for a net. All very simple, all very low cost. Even in a tiny room, children can learn how to control a ball with their racket. That is how two   Grand Slam winners (Jamie won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, remember?) started out, so there has to be something in it.

I had to make a quick exit with my trolley case as lunch came to an end. Sadly, I didn't have time to explore the zoo like everyone else did, I had a train to catch from Euston. As I left and said goodbye to everyone, Judy said I looked like I'd just been sacked by Lord Sugar! I certainly did look slightly out of place walking through the zoo trying to find the exit trailing a case behind me, but I can report I didn't get into the back of a taxi to be filmed. It was definitely an amazing weekend - meeting two celebrities who more than lived up to their billing. The only disappointment was that the children were not there. They would have loved playing the games and the zoo, but it was not to be, plus they were back home having fun without me.

If you want to learn more about the Set4Sport programme, visit their website or you can download a free Set4Sport app from the App Store (for iOS devices) or Google Play store (for Android).
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