Making the most of your garden with a some footie fun

One of the best things about the arrival of Spring is the chance for Joe to play out in the garden, both after school and in the holidays. Joe is most definitely the sort of child who would be described as an ‘outdoorsy’ type, he likes all kinds of sports, running, climbing and riding his scooter. But the thing he loves doing most is playing with a football. The phase ‘football crazy’, may just have been made for him.

My football Mad boy

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At his football birthday party

Training with the Baggies

Training with the Baggies

Training with Darren Fletcher and James MacClean of WBA

Training with Darren Fletcher and James McClean of WBA

So, the return of the light nights and warmer weather also mean the start of the garden football season for my family. Joe already has his eyes on the new football that has been released for the Euro 2016 championship which starts in June, and the lawn has been mowed and the goals have been set up. We currently have one decent set of goals, and one small set that are going to be replaced next week (look out for the post on my garden improvements next week.)

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A good set of goals is a great investment if you have children who are football mad, whatever the size of your garden. If you have a large garden you can enjoy games, with a smaller garden they are still good for football practice, taking penalties, goal keeper practice, and they stop children firing the ball towards the wall of your house (and the windows of course.) QuickPlay Sport is a great destination to find good quality goals of all sizes, especially as they come with a 2 year guarantee on parts. They also have have a mobile training app that is great if your child currently plays for a team, because practicing is most definitely the best way to improve.

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Using your garden for sports and pastimes like football can help your children improve their skills and performance whilst having lots of fun in the process. It also means that your kids will be out in the fresh air actually participating in physical activity, rather than simulating it on FIFA 16 – and this can only be a good thing.

 

 

Ladies at the races

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It is nice every once in a while to treat yourself, without the little ones, and spend some quality time with your friends.  So how about a day at the races?  This is the one time you can have the whole day to yourself, getting fully dressed up and sipping champagne, whilst soaking in the atmosphere and having a little flutter.

Or how about having a family day out at the races, on family days?  Not only are you having to think about what you’re going to wear, but there’s also factors such as how you’re going to get there, and where are the best places to stay.

‘Just girls’ day

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Fashion at the races is all important.  You want to create that right look but need some inspiration.  Dress codes at race tracks usually advise that you dress as you would if you were going to a wedding.  You can get ideas on the formal dress you are looking for, to express your desired look.  Many ladies enjoy wearing hats, which range from the simple design to the flamboyant, which you can pick up at local department stores, or have specially made by a milliner.  Shoes come in a range of shapes and colours, and can be easily found online to compliment your outfit.  Handbags and the right jewellery are the accessories which can finish off your race outfit perfectly.

Once you’re dressed up and at the races there are tips to bet on straight from the horse’s mouth.  Coral has information on race days, and the horses which will be running.  Also different racecourse websites offer advice to picking that winning horse, such as Cheltenham’s tips.  Things to look out for when placing your bet are aspects like if the horse has had any previous wins, the horse’s age and weight, it’s top speed ratings, and its latest betting odds.  Handy tips to picking your horse are found easily on various websites, and information is also available at the racecourse itself.

A family day

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Family days at the races include extra activities to keep your cherubs entertained throughout the day, from an appearance of their favourite children’s characters, bouncy castles, to interactive racing zones.  Whether you live close to a racecourse or are travelling, racecourse websites advise you as where to drive in and park onsite, or local bus and rail information, with many places offering shuttle buses taking you directly to the course, from the nearest stations and town centres.

If you are travelling you also might consider making a night of it, and staying in local accommodation.  Whatever your requirements you might want to splash out on a lavish hotel, to an affordable boutique bed and breakfast, or stay in local flats and rooms.  However you wish to spend it, a day out at the races is a way of having fun with your friends or entertaining your family.

 

The Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix – Just record breaking!

Saturday 21st February 2015 will be a date that will forever be embedded in my memory. It is the day I attended my first, proper athletics event, the Sainsbury’s Indoor GP at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena. It was a day I enjoyed wonderful hospitality whilst marveling at the pace and prowess of the likes of Kim Collins, Greg Rutherford and Nigel Levine. And it is the day I cheered, shook and literally screamed myself hoarse as the legendary Mo Farah broke the world record in the men’s 2 mile race. It was an unbelievable day.

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Joe has been interested in Athletics since the Olympics in 2012. He became fairly obsessed with Mo Farah especially, and did the Mo-bot every time he saw him, on television, in newspapers, he even pointed him out on billboards. So the invitation to the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix was greatly appreciated and something to get very excited about. We arrived at the Barclaycard Arena early, as we were invited to have a special lunch in the VIP area. This proved to be gorgeous, with lots of variety (including a braised beef stroganoff which was just delicious.) There was a frisson of excitement when Matthew Hudson Smith appeared – smiling, chatting and posing for photographs ahead of collecting a very special award as British Athletics Young Athlete of the Year. Then it was time for the main event.

Matthew Hudson Smith collects his award from Jason Gardner

Matthew Hudson Smith collects his award from Jason Gardner

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We were seated in the showdeck, which offered amazing views across the indoor arena. It was also the perfect place for seeing an off duty athlete, with Jason Gardner and Christine Ohuruogu both enjoying the action. There was a great mixture of track and field events happening – there is literally always something happening at these events, which was also being screened live on the BBC. The first really exciting moment came in the long jump, when Greg Rutherford appeared to enormous cheers. His first jumps were the only ones to go further than 8 metres, and he broke his personal best twice. It looked like he was going to win it comfortably, but then Chinese star Gao Xinglong jumped an enormous 8.12, this pushed Greg back into 2nd place and left him needing a huge jump to win. But how could we ever doubt Greg, his final jump of 8.17 was fabulous and lifted the whole crowd ecstatically to their feet. It was a great pointer to how the afternoon would go.

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Grabbing a shameless selfie with Christine Ohrugurhu

Grabbing a shameless selfie with Christine Ohuruogu

A fabulous female pole vault was slightly tarred when Britain’s Sally Peake had to retire, but no-one could question the exhilarating final contest between the eventual winner, Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou and the Brazilian Fabiana Murer. Another real crowd pleaser was the men’s 400m which was won by Nigel Levine, with a time of 46.43. More British wins from the likes of Jenny Meadows, Seren Bundy-Davies and the awe-inspiring Katarina Johnson Thompson all added to this being a very special afternoon for British Athletics. And all this was before Mo had even entered the arena.

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The 2 mile final was the final race of the afternoon, but before this, there was the drama of the 60 metres final. The always exciting Kim Collins was the expected winner, as you would expect from the fastest man in the world this year. But the tension levels were raised with unbelievable tension with two false starts that led to the disqualification of two of the field. On the third start, Collins won comfortably with a time of 6.50.

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And then it was time for Mo. The minute he was spotted on the track for the warm-up the atmosphere just sizzled with excitement and anticipation for what was about to happen. Mo was cool, waving to the fans as he did a warm-up lap, and everyone was buzzing with what was about to happen (there was no ifs about it, Mo WAS going to break the record.) To say he smashed it would be an understatement, the 2nd mile was recorded as 3.59.5 – a sub 4 minute mile – something else I cannot actually believe I was there to see. It was one of the most memorable things I have ever seen, and Joe was totally ecstatic to see his hero in the flesh, performing so brilliantly. The absolute perfect end to a wonderful afternoon.

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Mo Farah Shearman

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Our afternoon wasn’t quite over though. We were invited to a Q&A session with a host of athletes including Robbie Grabarz, Martin Rooney and the fabulous Jo Pavey were all answering questions in the VIP lounge to a packed audience. We couldn’t stay for the whole session – Joe was becoming tired, and I was feeling rather ill with the flu that put me in bed for all of Sunday, but loved the moment when Martin Rooney was called to the floor and Joe stood right in front of him and clapped – super cute and totally spontaneous.

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We had the most wonderful day – the Sainsbury’s Indoor GP is a really exhilarating family experience. I can’t wait to go again.

*With thanks to Sainsbury’s and the Fast Track Agency for the invitation and all-round fabulous day. Sainsbury’s are a proud partner of British Athletics and are committed to using sport to inspire healthy lifestyles for all.

Family Fever