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Physicality, intensity and pace: U16 sportsmen talk of their experiences in the 1st Team

By Sam Colvine |

Each year, a number of U16 players are selected for the 1st Team in various sports, asked to play two years up. HSC caught up with representatives from three sports to hear about their experiences.

Jonah Blake: Football

Sam Colvine: What would you say is the main difference between U16 and Senior Football?

Jonah Blake: To be honest, in terms of ability, I think they’re quite similar but the pace of the game in the firsts is a lot faster and, obviously, it can be more demanding physically. However, the main difference has to be that, in the U16s, you can afford to switch off for a moment, whereas in the firsts you have to constantly maintain focus throughout the game.

SC: Has it been hard to integrate into the team?

JB: Initially, it was difficult because, being the only one in a lower year, it can be a challenge to communicate. But football is a team sport so you learn to play with each other whilst becoming familiar with your teammates’ styles. Through this you can build up relationships on the pitch as well as off it too.

SC: What has been your individual standout performance this season?

JB: Although it was tight game which we eventually lost 3-2, I think my best game was probably against Bradfield which we played on the Hampton and Richmond Borough FC pitch where, after a sluggish start, we came back from two goals down to 2-2. It was a great collective performance against a tricky opposition, just as the team had come together

SC: Do you think that playing week in, week out has improved you as a player?

JB: Obviously lots of different challenges come with it, but, overall, it really helps with technical ability because you have to think constantly fast and be able to make the right pass because there’s less margin for error. Also, you learn that there are certain parts of your game that you need to develop as your opponents are able to anticipate your every move better than in the lower school football.

SC: What are your aspirations going forward in your footballing career at Hampton?

JB: Primarily, I would love to try and help the U16As win ESFA this season as well as attempting to triumph in the remaining cups the 1st XI are still competing in this year but, looking forward to the coming years, I want to progress further in the major competitions with the 1st XI.

Arjun Bhat: Cricket

SC: Was the intensity of the cricket matches on the tour a shock to you?

Arjun Bhat: No, I think we prepared really well. We had a number of training sessions in the run up to the tour which enabled us to hone our techniques and almost mimic the match intensity that we were going to be faced with on the tour.

SC: What was your cricketing highlight of the tour?

AB: In terms of individual performances, many of the batsmen had great tours and a few of the bowlers too so that is always great to see but I would say that the best moment for me was when we won our first game on the tour. It was a T20 game and it was the first time we had properly played as a unit and this was really reflected in our performance.

SC: What were the differences between the tour to India and the junior tour to Dubai?

AB: During the Dubai tour, we did play good opposition but the majority were from England so we were able to gauge the quality of the teams we were playing before the game had even started. However, on the India tour we played much better outfits, including local academies that we didn’t know anything about, at fantastic grounds. There was a lot less free time too on the senior tour and it was a big learning curve in all our cricketing careers.

SC: What was the main message you took from the tour?

AB: One of the most important things we learnt as a team on the tour was, during games, to fully concentrate on our own game and not to worry about what was going on around us. Personally, the tour exposed a few technical problems in my set up which I need to work on in the future.

SC: How will you take what you learnt from the tour into trying to break into the 1st XI next year?

AB: As a batsmen, the main challenge for me in trying to break into the first team will be learning to face the stronger, more skilful bowlers and becoming accustomed to the higher intensity of the games. I think the India tour was a great opportunity to expose myself to these things and I am sure it will help me in the future.

Ethan Knight: Rugby

SC: What was the mentality you took into your first game in the 1st XV?

Ethan Knight: Mainly just to not make any bad mistakes by not trying to do too much. I knew I needed to stick to my own game and to focus on doing all I could to help out the team.

SC: What surprised you most about 1st XV rugby?

EK: Obviously, the standard and intensity of the rugby is a lot higher as well as the pace of the game too. The opponents were definitely more physical compared to U16 rugby which made it harder for me to assert myself on the game.

SC: Was it hard for you to make the step up?

EK: Initially, it definitely was: keeping up with the backs was a lot harder than in the lower years as they were more agile and quicker. After the first tackle goes in, it’s relentless and you have to give everything to enable the team to win.

SC: How will you take your experiences this year into your first full season in the 1st XV?

EK: I am going to take what I learnt from the matches I have played this year and use it to develop different aspects of my game. Hopefully, by doing this, I can help the firsts to be successful next season as well as being the best player I can be, at the same time.

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