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Seahawks give fans something to cheer

American marketing techniques are being employed by an Edinburgh secondary to encourage pupils to take up sport and support school teams. As a result, Portobello High teams will this season be known as the Seahawks.

The idea came from Tony Szifris, principal teacher of PE, who has returned to Scotland after a year on teaching exchange in Chicago. It is the second time that Szifris, a former Scottish national player and national team coach of basketball, has spent a year in the United States.

As a Churchill Fellow, he spent a year studying basketball coaching. Almost all American high school and college teams have nicknames, usually involving animals. President Bill Clinton's old side at Arkansas University, who last year won the college basketball title, are known as the Razorbacks.

"School sport gets a tremendous amount of support in the US, both from parents and the local community and also commercially," Szifris says. "We need to do far more to sell sport to our pupils. This is not just about basketball. "

Work is due to begin this month on the long-awaited phase two of Portobello High's redevelopment which involves building a new games hall. Szifris, who has campaigned to ensure that spectator facilities are included, wants adequate seating to allow pupils to support teams and encourage outside spectators. There is clearly an opportunity to raise revenue as well.

"What is the point of having good school teams if no one can go along to watch them?" Szifris asks.

The recently opened St Margaret's Academy in Livingston, for instance, has won praise for its architecture but has no spectator facilities in its games hall, though there is an excellent playing surface. As for basketball, there is not enough space behind the baskets to meet requirements for representative matches.

Portobello High sides have dominated schools basketball in recent years with the senior girls going for their seventh title in a row and the boys for their sixth.

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