Hardwick Hall was the venue for Woodham Sports Academy annual awards evening on Monday 7th July. An audience of four hundred students and parents were entertained by guest speaker, George Courtney a retired head teacher and world class referee who has spent the majority of his refereeing days travelling the world in some of football’s biggest games.
Mr Courtney started refereeing  school games in and around his area of Spennymoor in 1961.  He later carried out duties for the Northern League before becoming a Football League referee in 1976. Despite only being in his second year as a football league referee, George was appointed to the decisive match for the League title in which Liverpool staged a dramatic recovery beating Wolverhampton Wanders to win the league.
In 1979 he took charge of the FA Cup final between West Ham and Arsenal, and in 1983 took charge of the League Cup Final. In 1979 he made the FIFA panel of referees and was England’s representative at the 1984 European Championships, followed by the FIFA World Cups of 1986 and 1990. His message of “Grasp every opportunity with both hands and be ambitious” was an inspiration.
The 228 members of the Woodham Sports Academy including dance, gymnastics, football, cricket, softball, American football, table tennis, swimming, basketball, handball and water polo, were all awarded certificate of achievement.
There were seven special awards: The Individual Achievement of the Year Award was won by Ben Stephenson,  a talented water polo player. Ben joined Sedgefield water polo club in January 2011 being coached by George Carpenter. He has had major success in the pool with the club and has won two gold and three bronze medals at the National Waterpolo Festival and ASA National water polo championships.
He was selected at the age of 12 to join the north east under 16 regional squad and as a result Ben attended trials for the Great Britain squad and has now been chosen to attend the GB water polo training camp in August this year. To cap off a remarkable three years, Ben has been selected to represent the under 15 North East team at the BWMF water polo cup in Andorra this September.
Woodham Sports Academy Recognition of the Year Award WAS won by Keera West, someone who has embraced the sports academy since its development in 2012. She is a key member of both dance and gymnastics academies. This year Keera has completed in the national gymnastics finals in Stoke on Trent.  She has played a major part in the dance performances at the Durham Gala Theatre, great British dance off in Leeds and Woodham Academy dance show case.
Keera has also taken a lead role this year in assisting Miss Minervini with the girls’ and boys’ gymnastics academies. Her help and knowledge has made her a fantastic role model for our younger students.
The Contribution to Sport Award was awarded to Haydn Maclean for what he has done for Woodham Sport in his 5 years at theAcademy. A very talented performer across a range of sports, Haydn was always one of the first names down when picking sports teams. He represented the Academy in football, basketball, athletics and table tennis teams. However it is in basketball where he has seen his greatest success, representing Newcastle Eagles, Regional and the North of England sides.
Team of the Year was awarded to Woodham Gymnastics Academy who had a very successful year. This year Woodham competed in many competitions, which started with the Milano competition, where 2 teams of 4 performed both a floor and vault routine, and three members of the team performed a trio routine. In this competition one of our teams came in first place and went on to represent the north at the National finals, where the regional combined scores resulted in them coming third place. The next competition was the sports acro and tumbling competition held in Birtley.  The girls won, qualifying for the National Finals. The gymnastics academy also performed at the Woodham Dance showcase earlier this year.
Woodham Sports Academy Young Performer of the Year was awarded to Joshua Bayne who is part of the football, table tennis and handball academies. He has had a remarkable two years since joining Woodham Academy in September 2012. He has been involved with Sunderland AFC since the age of seven and this year has had the opportunity to captain Sunderland against Newcastle United at St James Park.
In recent years Joshua has played in competitions in the UK and Europe and recently played in a tournament in Spain against Europe’s elite clubs. Due to his performances for Sunderland, Joshua has been approached by the Scottish FA asking if he would consider representing Scotland in any future International games.
Woodham Sports Academy Performer of the Year was awarded to Ryan Harris for his role in the success of Woodham Basketball in the past 12 months. Ryan is a relative latecomer to basketball, having only be playing seriously for just over a year and a half.  He has progressed very quickly and is now attending North East regional practices. Ryan was selected to represent the North East in the National Championship at the Wildcats Arena Nottingham where he was the mainstay of the side, the leading point scorer and most influential player.
More recently, whilst in year nine, Ryan’s performances have been an instrumental factor in the year 9 team winning all competitions they have entered this year. It is likely that Ryan will again represent the North East region at National Championships in September of this year.
The Mark Bulman Award winner was Harry Condren. This award was very special and personal to Liam Clough, Director of Woodham Sports Academy and other senior staff members, being awarded in memory of former student, Mark Bulman, who died of cancer in 2010. This award symbolises everything students should aspire to. Through hard work, resilience, a positive mind-set and fight you can achieve anything in life, no matter how hard it becomes.
Woodham Sports Academy Director Liam Clough says “Again our students have gone above and beyond what I have expected of them this year. We now have students performing at regional and national levels regularly and this is making Woodham Sport stronger.
There are now 228 students involved within the Academy and I am confident this number can continue to grow. Tonight was about celebration and how through sport people can achieve remarkable things, not only in sport but through their education.
This was evident in last year’s exams results where 89% of Sport Academy students achieved  5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths. The Sports Academy has had success that I did not believe was possible so early on, and that is down to the hard work, dedication and desire of students and staff”.
Woodham Sports Academy will introduce two additional academies, leadership and girls’ football, for September. Dance, gymnastics and swimming provision will also be extended to meet demand.


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