How sport can inspire future generations

Our CEO Mark Lawrie blogs about how #Inspiration2022 helps StreetGames to achieve our mission of a year-round multisport offer in low-income, underserved communities.

Each school holiday period, children and young people across the country enjoy of some of the brilliant holiday programmes on offer in their local neighbourhoods. For all too many of those living in underserved communities, these programmes will be a welcome respite from an otherwise bleak experience.

The sad reality is that for too many children and young people in the UK, the school holidays are far from the idyllic adventures depicted by books and media. For many households, half terms and summer holidays are a period of increased stress and hardship. Families already struggling to make ends meet suddenly find themselves forced to find extra cash to provide meals and snacks for their children, cash they simply don’t have. For working parents on low income, fixed-term contracts, the cost and difficulty of securing childcare in order to keep them in work is a tremendous hurdle.

These challenges have been well publicised in recent years, with fantastic campaigners like Marcus Rashford helping to show the country how tough school holidays can be for so many. It’s for this reason that programmes like the holiday activities and food programme (HAF) and StreetGames’ pioneering Fit and Fed campaign have evolved to fill that gap and to try to provide every young person with the chance to enjoy fun physical activity and healthy food during the school break.

At StreetGames we welcome the increased awareness of this issue and we’re proud to be part of the solution. But we also know that the problems with provision don’t begin with that last class bell. And while these holiday programmes are serving communities well in providing provision throughout the challenging holiday period, in many communities the start of term will herald the end of any suitable provision. Very few sports have a strong club base in low-income, underserved communities. With a few notable exceptions like boxing, football and rugby league, there are simply not enough opportunities to join clubs in these neighbourhoods. We know that most young people will only travel up to a mile from home to get involved in activity – it has to be on their doorstep and it has to be available when they want it. This includes finding suitable indoor spaces to ensure provision during the winter months.

Furthermore, even where some sort of sporting provision is available, it is not always appropriate to the needs of those young people who would benefit the most. Many young people want a multisport rather than a single sport offer – the varied and vibrant nature of a multisport offer attracts those young people who are less traditionally ‘sporty’ and are turned off by the more competitive and regimented nature of traditional sport clubs. Giving young people the chance to make choices about what is provided in their neighbourhoods encourages further involvement helps them to try a range of different sports and activities to find their niche. We know that for many young Doorstep Sports participants – 70% of whom don’t take part in any other organised community sporting activity – the chance to socialise with friends and engage in sport informally on their own terms is a key selling point.

Why does this matter? Because young people from low-income, underserved communities are likely to have less exposure to a broad range of different sporting experiences that develop their confidence and competence to participate. They are less likely to participate in extra-curricular activities and as a result of their household income (low income families spend on average £3.65 per week on sport and active leisure) will have limited if any access to leisure provision or sports club membership. A free or low-cost neighbourhood-based offer is therefore vital to increase their levels of sporting capital and a year-round offer contributes to building this sustainably.

At StreetGames, we recognise the transformational impact sport can make, helping young people to live healthier, safer, more successful lives. That’s why we work with LTOs and multiple funders and partners to help to piece together a year-round offer at a neighbourhood level, working within the confines of the system as it exists. This Doorstep Sport approach, when delivered in the right way (following the five rights) achieves a range of social outcomes for young people and communities but this does not take place overnight. For change to take place for young people, they need to be engaged on a regular and sustained basis. Whilst the nature of their lives may mean that they do not all attend every week, the provision of a year-round offer is essential, so that it is available when they are motivated to access it. The role of trusted adults in being available to support and engage young people when they need it is also a crucial feature of year-round provision.

2022 is a set to be a hugely exciting year for sport in the UK, with the Commonwealth Games, UEFA Women’s EURO and Rugby League World Cup joining annual events including Wimbledon and The Open in taking place on home soil. Further afield, the Winter Olympics, Women’s Cricket World Cup, FIFA World Cup and more round out a sporting calendar that is destined to inspire thousands more people to get active.

 But all too often, we’ve seen grand sporting events come and go with little or no plans in place to build on that enthusiasm and get more people active. And in many-low income, under-served communities the only ‘legacy’ left behind by the year’s most exciting sporting events is the national flags flying listlessly on balconies, with no vision or investment to transform that enthusiasm into a sustainable sporting offer for the next generation. Creating a meaningful community legacy of activity from major sporting events for young people who stand to benefit most demands our energy.

This year, we want to do more. We want to make sure that the ripple effect of hosting major events is felt by everybody, including those in underserved communities who still face barriers to accessing sport and physical activity.

 #Inspiration2022 is designed to do just that. With a programme of exciting events and opportunities, all tied in with these key sporting highlights, we’ll be working with our partners and our national network of Locally Trusted Organisations to bring a year-round, multisport offer of activities and experiences right to the doorstep of those young people who need it most.

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