THE Sports Stars programme through Marlborough Squash Club proved a huge success.
An introductory course attracted more than 20 youngsters from St John’s Academy in the town aged 11-14 over an eight-week period, with a mini-tournament concluding the programme last weekend.
The squash course was funded by England Squash and Wiltshire County Council under the Sports Stars project which encourages children to try a new sport.
The winner was Daniel Filipiak, narrowly beating Dan Davis 15-13 in the final. Harrison France finished third and Theo Heber-Percy fourth, with all players from St John’s.
Marlborough Squash Club is one of seven Wiltshire sports clubs have been handed a cash boost by Wiltshire Council to help encourage people into sport.
Wiltshire Council launched the Return to Sport and Sports Stars projects in 2013 as part of its Legacy for Wiltshire, which aims to encourage people to keep active and healthy and support future Olympians and Paralympians.
Return to Sport funding in excess of £1,500 was awarded to five sports clubs - Stonehenge and Pewsey Canoe Club, Chippenham Golf Club, Sarum Orienteering Club, Dinton Cricket Club and Chippenham Netball Club.
£800 in Sports Stars funding was granted to two sports clubs - Victoria Park Community Tennis Centre and Marlborough Squash Club.
Cllr Jonathon Seed, cabinet member for leisure, said: “The grants awarded through the Return to Sport and Sports Stars programmes will enable clubs to offer a high-quality coaching scheme.
"At the end of the projects, clubs will provide opportunities for participants to continue to be involved in the sport on a more regular basis.”
Debbie Boycott, from Chippenham Netball Club, said: "At Chippenham Netball Club we want to increase adult participation.
"The Return to Sport funding has allowed us to run Back to Netball sessions to encourage adults back to the sport who didn't want to step right back into a club environment.
"The sessions start in April and run for 10 weeks and we hope that some of the ladies will join our club on a permanent basis. Any adults who may want to join Chippenham Netball Club contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Richard Cridge, from Dinton Cricket Club, said: "Dinton Cricket Club is always on the lookout for new players and we thought running indoor nets might be a good way to attracted new members.
"We are very grateful for our Return to Sport funding grant as this has allowed us to provide nets for new members for free! We have also used some of the money to help promote the event."
Dax Mellor, from Marlborough Squash Club, said: “Marlborough Squash Club has long since been the mecca for squash in Wiltshire with three teams competing in the top division.
"The club doesn’t however host a junior section and with the average age of club members creeping up it was decided to offer a local school the opportunity to get involved.
"Pupils of St John’s School were invited to take part in an eight-week beginners course in squash, and there was so much interest the club was required to set aside four sessions per week in order to cater for over 20 children.
“Following the eight week programme the club hosted a mini tournament giving the pupils their first taste of competition. They were also invited to continue their squash activity by attending a weekly Junior Club night.
"All pupils that started the eight-week course finished and I’m pleased to say that all have committed to attending the future junior sessions.”
MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURES IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD