Sparsholt College Coaching Day - A Day to Remember
Andy Neal discovers just what it means to be an angling coach for a day.
When Sparsholt College, Hampshire got in touch to say they were running their annual Foundation Learning Course (FLC) coaching day I just had to be there. This day is organised by Sparsholt College fishery students to give other students with learning difficulties a chance to try and enjoy the sport we all love so dearly.
Fishery lecturers Sue and Simon Scott along with Dan Gale always make it a day to remember and they utilise the skills and knowledge of their year 2 Level 3 Diploma students - all of whom are Level 1 or Level 2 coaches - to offer the FLC student group one to one coaching for the day. In my opinion there is nowhere near enough effort made for days and events like this and this was one of the reasons I was so pleased to be invited along as I personally feel very strongly about being able to give something back to our sport.
The day arrived and I was greeted by twenty or so smiling faces of the Level 3 Diploma students, all of whom were getting their tackle set up and making sure everything was right for the day ahead. Simon, Dan and Sue introduced me whilst we walked around their beautifully landscaped lake. It was all I could do not to pinch a rod and have a go as there were fish topping everywhere, it looked superb. The offer to have a fish was made but I declined as this day was not about me but helping others and we soon gathered for the arrival of the FLC student group.
The group arrived shortly after and, being out of their comfort zone, it clearly showed with lots of nerves but the coaches spotted this immediately and were soon offering themselves up to be paired up for the days’ events. This showed an awful lot of character as I’m not too sure I would have been so forthcoming when I was their age. A credit to themselves and the college, it was impressive to see them instantly putting others before themselves and although a little shy and nervous the pairs of coaches and students moved off to their pegs to fish.
Instantly there was calm and smiles as the coaches got into their stride explaining about the fishing and environment. I actually dropped in on a few whilst doing this and learnt quite a bit myself. This was clearly their domain and it showed, their confidence was clearly very settling to the FLC students too and before long we could hear ‘when will I catch a fish?’ ringing out around the lake. Well, that question was soon answered as all were very quickly rewarded with some lovely roach, rudd and perch and with a few specimen anglers in our midst surely it was only a matter of time before a carp was hooked?
With the camera round my neck I was to be the photographer for the day – and I really had to earn my half-time hot dog! Before we knew it there were fish coming out all over on various methods and the smiles on the novice anglers’ faces were incredible. The images just don’t do it justice! Instantly I understood why Sue, Simon and Dan go to so much trouble to support the Level 3 Diploma students to organise this event and I applaud them.
The half-time whistle blew, or rather the car horn ‘parped’, and we gathered to enjoy Mrs Scott’s BBQ until, that is, we realised we were missing four people! ‘Too busy fishing’ was the reply and we looked across the lake to see a student doing battle with a very well angled carp, off the top too!
After a well-deserved lunch break we were soon back in action and it was soon apparent the morning’s sport could well be bettered as the carp had decided to feed! Rods bent everywhere and lots of fish splashing meant lots more work for me but what a pleasure it was. Speaking to a few of the learning support assistants who accompanied some of the students they couldn’t believe how engrossed they were. It even got competitive as one brilliant young angler caught 23 Rudd and two Carp! I’m glad I left my gear at home as I would have been embarrassed!
As the day drew to a close we once again gathered on the lawn at the front of the fishery, this time for the prize giving. What an unbelievable difference in two sets of people in the space of a few hours. With rounds of applause and certificates for all who took part everyone beamed from ear to ear. There were biggest fish prizes – won by an excellent 11llb carp and this particular gentleman gave me the impression he had done it all before as he was loading and moulding his own method feeders, casting them out and catching several large carp - Bob Nudd, look out!
A fantastic day was enjoyed by everyone; the college student coaches were truly brilliant and Sue, Simon and Dan, flawless! The FLC students all left with HUGE smiles and certificates, don’t bet against seeing one of them in the angling press in the not too distant future.
Let me take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Sparsholt College, Sue, Simon and Dan, the college students and all from the FLC group including the students themselves.
One thing was made very clear, the sport we love so much had just given a group of people some memories they will never forget. Why doesn’t this happen more? The cost is little, the effort, a lot and the end result… Priceless!
Roll on next year!