On Saturday, University College School, Hampstead formally opened its new sports centre and renovated playing fields at Farm Avenue. The 27-acre site looked magnificent and players from all three schools in the UCS Foundation made use of the impressive Kantor Centre throughout the day.
In addition to the usual programme of Saturday fixtures in rugby, football and hockey, to celebrate the opening of this flagship facility numerous sporting masterclasses were given to UCS pupils of all ages. Fresh from winning the county championship with Essex, former England cricket captain Sir Alastair Cook spent time in the cricket nets and delivered some words of wisdom to members of the 1st XI and Under-15 teams. He urged the players to work as hard as they possibly could, as he explained it was hard graft that saw him become England’s leading run-scorer.
On the netball courts, England netballer Jodie Gibson gave an inspiring coaching session to the Sixth Form squad. The girls were dazzled by Jodie’s tales of winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and by the intensity of the session. On the hockey field, England international Harry Martin worked with the Under-14 team from UCS before umpiring a match between UCS and local side, Hampstead and Westminster. After the game, legendary hockey goalkeeper, Maddie Hinch, delivered an inspiring session to the school’s goalkeepers. The boys were a little overawed meeting the keeper who saved all four penalties in the Olympic final in 2016. “They were great,” enthused Maddie afterwards, “but I can’t believe how quiet they were.”
The school’s footballers in the Junior Branch and Pre-Prep were joined by Arsenal and England legend Faye White. Faye was impressed by the enthusiasm of the teams, who didn’t let the wet and windy conditions dampen their spirits. The day concluded with UCS’s four senior rugby teams taking on the Oratory School. They all started strongly, having been warmed up with a kicking masterclass delivered by current European Rugby Player of the Year, Alex Goode.
At lunchtime, the Kantor Centre was formally opened by Sir Alastair Cook, Headmaster Mark Beard, Chair of Governors Simon Lewis and Dr Moshi Kantor, whose generous donation enabled the development to take place. All four remarked on the impact that sport can have on young people’s lives and how it can be used as a vehicle for personal development. Dr Kantor remarked, “Throughout this IT revolution, it is essential that young people learn the value of team spirit and friendship through sport.” Thanks to the investment in these fantastic facilities, it is clear that UCS pupils, and those from its partnership schools, will be able to benefit from sporting endeavour for decades to come.