What really happens this side of the Cattle Grid: Blog #6

Stool Ball. What a game! For those of you unfamiliar with the traditional Sussex game, allow me to explain the nuts and bolts of this quintessential English sport.

Stool ball is a sport that dates back to at least the 15th century, originating in Sussex; it may be an ancestor of cricket (a game it resembles in some respects), baseball, and rounders; Stool Ball has been called “cricket in the air”. Having lived in the South East for a decade, I arrived at HZG with a love of playing this game and Pooh-Sticks.

Free time for our boarders is like gold-dust. For many, they enjoy nothing more than just mooching around with their friends but for some, free time has meant Stool Ball in the Sports Hall. Tip and run, one-hand-one-bounce, and “catches win matches” mean something in this arena!

My uncle, the fisherman and golfer, used to say that a round of golf is like life itself. I never truly understood this until I took up the game. In the spirit of gambling (this would make more sense if you have read the previous Blog), I see my uncle’s golf claim and raise him Stool Ball.

What is magnificent about the version of Stool Ball that we play, is that if the fielding team catches a batsman out – on the full, the entire team is out. This needs some attention and reflection… Think back to being 12 years old and taking stance at the “wicket”…before the ball is thrown, you glance back at your whole team, and you see the look on their faces and feel their energy, egging you on. You take a deep breath. The ball is delivered. You close your eyes and swing wildly. The ball flies. The fielders scramble underneath the ball. The catch is held. Not only are you out but so is your entire team. Mortified, you hang your head in shame, ready for the onslaught.

Now, just before you start to panic and worry that it may have been your little one, who succumbed to the injustice of this rule, let me tell you that things have changed since we were children. And it definitely wasn’t better in the good-old days.

What I have witnessed is the nothing short of heart-warming. The children support each other, comfort each other and above all, do not tolerate unkindness in any guise. If, and this rarely happens, a child says something unkind – emotions run high in this sort of game! – he/she is quickly shot down and the unkindness fizzles away, like the coals in my bbq on a rainy day.

At HZG, we have maintained, fostered and encouraged a culture of kindness – the children see it in the way that the adults treat each other and the way that they treat the children. We encourage kindness in the words and actions of the children too. Love is an action and it is certainly not enough to just pay lip service; we insist on seeing this caring spirit, the children have embraced this culture; and I have no doubt that this is being reinforced at home too. We thank you for this, parents.

So, if you fancy a game that is fast-paced, exciting and includes everyone, try your hand at Stool Ball. Maybe, once life gets back to normal, we could have a Parents vs Children game. Now there’s something to look forward to in the New Year…

Mr Schreiber



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