Official Opening of the WGS Sport and Fitness Centre

Withington marked the official opening of its impressive new Sport and Fitness Centre with a visit by inspirational Paralympian athlete Dame Sarah Storey DBE and a fun-filled day-long Festival of Sport.

The new facility – which provides an expanded area for sports and PE; viewing galleries; a large fitness suite; a ‘mind and body’ studio and a welcoming reception and hospitality area – marks the completion of a year-long project, part of the School’s ongoing redevelopment programme.

In an action-packed day of activities which was held on 5th July and included athletics, games, dance, and even ‘staff spectacular’ races, the Withington community of pupils, teachers, alumnae, governors and invited guests were in celebratory spirits as Dame Sarah formally unveiled the plaque commemorating the recently completed building, which, says Headmistress Mrs Haslam, ‘provides something for everyone’, and encourages pupils of all sporting abilities to ‘stay active for life’.

Addressing an attentive Arts Centre audience and praising the bright, airy, state-of-the-art building, Dame Sarah – Britain’s longest serving athlete (swimming and cycling), the most successful female British Paralympian of all time and holder of 75 world records – commented: “ It’s a huge inspiration to me to walk into such an incredible facility in such an incredible school. It’s exciting to imagine what will be possible as Withington moves forward in the future because when you have facilities like this, it provides opportunities and inspiration and fits well with my own personal motto which is ‘to be the best version of you’ that you can possibly be.”

Speaking of her own personal drive to achieve athletic success after watching the Olympics on television when she was just six years old and highlighting the benefits of sport in a broader sense, she continued, “Whether you plan to be an elite athlete as I did, or whether you are looking for another role in life, our brains work better if we are physically fit and active – if we are doing it for recreation then it helps our mental health and wellbeing and if we are doing it for elite sport, then it helps us to reach that elite level better and faster.”

In talks to both Junior and Senior girls, Dame Sarah, who was first selected to represent Great Britain at the age of 14, also stressed the importance of being adequately prepared and of striving for incremental improvements on a day-by-day basis, ‘try to be a little better than you were the day before,” she told them.

She also offered advice to girls facing the sometimes stressful examinations period: “For those of you who have exams coming up, when you stand outside that room, you need to know that everything you have done up to now has been about being prepared – but in getting to that point, it is really important to look after yourself as well – and that’s what this new facility will help with. This new centre is state-of-the-art and you should all be so delighted. It is fantastic and I am so proud to be here today and to be a part of this celebration.”

Mrs Haslam described the official opening as a truly memorable day. “Withington has had strong sporting traditions from its very beginnings. Indeed, it was written into the founding principles of Withington that there should be more physical exercise than was usual in girls’ schools – and of course over the years, our girls have excelled in many sports locally, regionally and nationally. Our vision was to have a new sport and fitness centre that would inspire. We want all our pupils to enjoy sport and fitness during their time at Withington, whatever their skill level, developing their abilities and improving their fitness whilst doing an activity they enjoy.”

Thanking donors, WGS stakeholders and Withington’s Development Director Mrs Toni Leden for her tireless fundraising work, she added that a huge team effort now means that Withington is able to offer outstanding sporting facilities to all pupils, whatever their level of expertise.

As part of the commemoration ceremony, a film Ad Lucem, produced by pupils on Withington’s School Council, was shown. Featuring an Olympic torch and providing a snapshot of school life, the presentation was set to the rousing tune of Queen’s A Kind of Magic, with the lyrics – One Dream, One Soul, One Prize, One Goal, providing a fitting backdrop to the day’s exciting events.

Festival of Sport

The entire day of the official opening of our wonderful new sports facility was dedicated to celebrating sport and fitness. Senior School Sports Day events took place on the field in the first part of the morning, before all Senior pupils gathered in the Arts Centre for the formal Opening Ceremony and address by Dame Sarah.

After lunch, the whole school gathered on the field for a carousel of fun sport and fitness activities, such as Zumba, Rounders, Staff and Sixth Form races, a fantastic cheerleading demonstration by Junior School girls and much more besides.

Everyone was highly entertained whilst enjoying ice lollies in the welcome shade along the Victoria Road boundary wall and it’s a fair bet that a staff competition will become a new Withington tradition!