St Christopher’s Judo Club in Accrington thriving thanks to Sportivate Funding

Setting up a judo club in a school can be a challenge. Venue access, lack of resources and staff are some of the variables which can stop a school judo club getting off the ground. 

“There would be a pattern of it starting off well and then people would drop out as the year went on”, explains Christian Pountain and Head of R.E. and Spirituality and judo coach at St Christopher’s CofE High School in Accrington. 

Christian arrived at the school in 2007 and thought it could be second time lucky: “I tried setting up a judo club at my previous school but I couldn’t get it off the ground”, recalls Christian, who is currently studying on a UKCC Level 4 coaching course. 

In 2013 Christian arranged for British Judo Technical Officer Kerry Tansey and Area Service Manager Jeff Hynds to deliver a taster session at the school: “The taster sessions Kerry Tansey and Jeff Hynds did was one of the ingredients in the turnaround. The whole thing lasted 12 months actually as Kerry came back to deliver some enrichment sessions for our sixth formers”. 

This was the start of a phenomenal turnaround for the school club, as Christian explains: “We had a new maths teacher called Chris Welch who joined us and he brought a new enthusiasm for judo at the school. 

“With there now being two of us on the case we really kick started things”. 

With the support of Jeff Hynds, St Christopher’s managed to receive a £3,000 Satellite Club Funding grant from Lancashire Sport. “We have done ok with mats previously as we have a load of second mats from Shadsworth Judo Club in Blackburn. But the Sportivate money allowed us to get 30 brand new mates to help us expand the judo we were doing and increase the capacity of the sessions we were running. 

“There was also some money left over which we invested in 15 new judogi, so now when a new person turns there is always some kit available which they can borrow. 

“It’s funny how ‘if you build it they will come’, because that’s exactly what happened”, said Christian. 

Soon afterwards St Christopher’s became a BJA member club in their own right after being a satellite club and from nothing they now have 50 members on the books. 

“We kept the momentum going and we now regularly get 20 down for a session. We grade them according to the BJA grading system and we recently had some success at the Lancashire Championship as well”, Christian said proudly. 

One of the main aspects of the club’s sharp growth has been the work it does with disaffected children at the school: “Some of our kids suffer from behavioral problems and our heads of year regularly recommend to parents, whose kids are struggling behaviorally in school, that they should try judo. 

“Some of these kids would otherwise languish and some have low self-esteem so for them to be able to come into the dojo and find some success at something has been great to see. 

“I like the fact that we are reaching those kids and making a difference”, Christian concluded. 

Christian is something of an expert in this area and recently wrote a piece for the Times educational supplement on using judo as a tool for behaviour management.  

Christian and Chris will continue to make a difference to judo in the area. Chris has a new job at another school in the area and the two of them are already planning to combine forces to help grow St Christopher’s and even set up another school judo to start some inter-school competition.