Competing in Panathlon’s virtual ten-pin bowling and cricket programmes has given award-winner Riley Davidson the confidence to excel in other areas of the curriculum.

Seven-year-old Riley, a pupil at Albert Pye Primary School in Beccles, was presented with Panathlon’s Primary Outstanding Achievement award for Suffolk in school assembly on Tuesday July 20.

Through Panathlon’s in-school Virtual Programme he has discovered a love for ten-pin bowling during the pandemic and has earned the nickname ‘The Rocket Man’ for the power with which he delivers the ball.

Riley has a range of moderate learning difficulties and fine motor skills issues. However, his teacher, Henrietta Lane, revealed that the confidence he has gained on the field of play has transferred into big improvements in the classroom.

She said: “I’ve definitely noticed that as his confidence has grown in sport, he has developed greatly in the classroom as well. We noticed that his fine and gross motor skills improved but the biggest impact was on his self-esteem. He really started to believe in himself and this new self-confidence shone through and helped him tackle tasks more independently in all areas of the curriculum.

“He’s started writing and reading by himself and realising that he can do things which he couldn’t do before. His maths and literacy have improved massively and that has come from the confidence he’s gained from Panathlon. You can clearly see the knock-on effect. It really has had a big impact. We’re really proud of him.”

While holding his trophy (which he was presented with in assembly via Zoom by Panathlon’s multi-sport international Freya Levy), Riley said: “I’m really good at ten-pin bowling, I love throwing the ball really fast. I think ten-pin bowling has helped me get better at cricket too. They’re both really fun.”

Albert Pye PE coach Stuart McKenzie commented: “All of our Panathlon team loved that there wasn’t just one activity that Panathlon had organised for ten-pin bowling, there were loads. We worked on a lot of different skills.

“The ‘Rocket Man’ has been a fabulous addition to the school’s Panathlon team. He’s so keen to learn, he’s worked hard on his listening skills and understanding and has made lots of improvement.

“He finds listening to two- or three-step instructions difficult but completing the Panathlon challenges has helped him to focus on the instructions given. Riley has shown some great skills in the ten-pin bowling challenge, regularly improving on his scores and gaining confidence and popularity within the team. This has been great for him as he finds a lot of school very challenging.

“His commitment to Panathlon has been excellent and it has helped him develop at other sports. I didn’t realise just how good he was going to be! He can now move forward, join clubs and develop those skills even more.

“We’d like to give all the children a trophy but Riley has just been brilliant at every session during the pandemic, which has otherwise been an awful time. It’s been a pleasure to do Panathlon during this period for me as a teacher and introduce new sports like ten-pin bowling and cricket.”

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer Tony Waymouth said: “The selection of Riley as our primary winner in Suffolk reflects the fine work Albert Pye School does in inclusive PE and sport. They have been one of our most prolific enthusiastic competitors over the years and we look forward to working with them both ‘virtually’ and back at external events in the future.”

Many thanks to Suffolk Community Foundation and the Emma Holloway Foundation for their support for Panathlon activity in Suffolk.