Former Northampton Saints star Ben Cohen was on hand yesterday to officially open a school sports initiative in Kettering.
The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner met children at the launch of The Pacesetter Games at Arena Sports in Thurston Drive on Monday.
The initiative, run by Pacesetter Sports and sponsored by The Wilson Foundation, sees primary school children from across the county take part in free sports competitions.
Cohen, 38, took time from his work during anti-bullying week to speak to children at the games.
He said: “It’s important to keep kids active, especially in the days of iPods and TVs.
“It’s a lot different to when I was younger and I didn’t have anything like they have today.
“Children need to be introduced to sport and hopefully my visit can inspire them.
“This is a great opportunity for them. It’s nice to give something back to the community.”
The initiative will see about 2,000 children across 50 schools take part in a wide variety of sports including: football, dodgeball, orienteering, gymnastics, handball, benchball, duathlon, multi-skills, athletics, cricket, tag rugby and cross-country.
Events are scheduled every Monday and Friday morning between now and June 2017, with a three-week break for Christmas, before the grand finals in July.
Pacesetter Sports’ managing director Nick Bellamy said Cohen’s visit would act as an inspiration to the children.
He said: “It’s amazing to have somebody who has been there and done it here with us today in Ben.
“For a lot of these children to have somebody they can look up to is the inspiration they need.
“We want children to get active and enjoy sport from a young age.
“These competitions will hopefully provide them with opportunities that they might not get elsewhere.”
Yesterday’s event saw school children from Little Harrowden, Kettering, Gretton, Wellingborough and Maidwell play football against each other.
For many schools, they would be unable to take part without funding from The Wilson Foundation, which helps provide transport to the games.
Foundation trustee Polly Wilson said: “I think there’s 60 children here today and it’s great to give them this opportunity.
“There are some schools who could not take part without transport.
“If we can get them taking part at the games it’s giving them an extra chance.
“It’s lovely to see so many of them enjoying sport.”
Schools who are not part of the Pacesetter Sports programme can get five free entries into the initiative, with places still available.
If your school would like to take part or to find out more about the games, contact 01604 686367 or email.