Dover College: Bat Fives Saves The Day!

Howard Wiseman reports:

15/05/21: After a fantastic club morning at St.Olave’s on a Saturday morning, Dominique and I caught the direct train from Orpington to Dover. Less than two hours later, we were in front of fourteen or so girls and boys at Dover College, all eager to have a go at Fives!

One of their two beautiful courts was brought back to life a couple of years ago, with the promise of bringing back the second court soon after. Our visit was designed to build on the foundations that have been laid down by their keen Head of Games, Tom Butt, who has moved on recently to another school. The established group of Fives players were away on a re-scheduled field trip; so this was a great opportunity to introduce the game to some boarders.

Coaching so many on one court with a wide range of ability was going to be a challenge... it was a long afternoon session of two and a half hours.

On arrival, we had noticed a large bat-fives court that was part of the main Priory refectory building. The Refectory is one of the oldest buildings in the country that is still in use for its original purpose; over 900 years old! The bat Fives court will have been there for well over a hundred years and today was an opportunity for it to shine, and save the day.

After a crash-course of the main set-pieces on the Fives court, we worked on split sites. Dominique worked with four very talented youngsters on the Fives court; quickly joining up the practiced drills so that they were soon embroiled in a full-rules match.

Meanwhile, via “hot-potato” on the lawn, the rest of the group worked with me on the Bat Fives court. We would have been stuck without it.

Everyone worked hard throughout the session and made incredible progress. At the end, everyone was asking how and when to play again. Jack Payne is the fantastic new Head of Games at Dover.

Jack is a keen Fives player himself (having played regularly with Tom Butt and other Dover staff). As well as running organised sessions, Jack will be organising for each boarding house to have their own set of gloves and balls so that the students can make use of the courts whenever they wish.

Thank you so much to Jack for organising everything so well, and to the Eton Fives Association for their tremendous support with the whole Dover project and coaching support. There are a number of coaching sessions scheduled across the Summer Term. I look forward to seeing healthy growth of the Fives at Dover College and to hosting them at St.Olave’s in due course where they are welcome to use our courts as their neutral “home” venue.


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