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John at a football event

25 September 2019

Freddie, my 3 year old son has just started at our local school. He was telling me last night about how he’d wet his trousers…. And, now you’re immediately thinking where the link to a blog about National Fitness Day is? Stay with me.

What actually happened was that despite all the rain, the pre-school staff ensured that Fred and all his new friends were developing their physical literacy:

  • Enjoyment – jumping in puddles is great fun
  • Confidence – no puddle was too big a challenge
  • Competence – toe dipping to two feet landings bang in the middle of each one
  • Understanding – rain doesn’t stop play
  • Knowledge – instilling a creative habit about how to be active using your surroundings

The result (aside from a change of clothes) was that he had a huge smile on his face (happier), he interacted with children he hadn’t previously spoken to (more trusting) and he shrugged off being wet (resilience). Why is this important? According to UK Active, we, the average adult spend more time on the toilet each week than we do exercising and an astonishing eight times longer watching box sets than we do moving. In terms of young people, Sport England’s evidence from their Active Lives children and young people survey still highlights that stubborn inequalities exist:

  • Gender still has huge impact when it comes to enjoyment of sport and physical activity, with girls and young women less likely to feel confident about taking part
  • Socioeconomic status still remains a barrier, essentially a families payslip or postcode determines how active children and young people are (or not as the case maybe)
  • Ethnicity, boys and girls from black backgrounds are less active compared to their white peers.

Sports - football event

What have we been doing about this?

Since 2009, our sports development programme, Getting Ready, has been working with and through community youth organisations to respond directly to the inequalities above. In the last three years alone, 75% of our programme participants have been from BAME backgrounds, with 59% of the overall programme participants coming from the 25% most economically deprived areas of London. We’ve also been able to double and sustain the number of girls and young women participating from 17% to 37% . Through our approach, 72% of young people continuing to be active a year later, a clear indicator that what we are offering is moving from an experience to a habit.

The next 3 years?

Despite a track record of over a decade of supporting inactive young Londoners, we are very much aware there’s lots more to-do. As of September 2019, we are making the transition from Getting Ready to our new flagship programme – Getting Active. This will see us supporting 90 community youth organisations across the capital to create fun, inclusive activity hubs for young people aged 8 – 13. Getting Active activity hubs will be about enjoyable, social experiences that focus on physical and mental wellbeing and offer active play/participation opportunities that children and young people want and crucially are involved in designing. In addition, we are also delighted to be working with the sports brand Champion and the Mayor of London over the next 12 months to deliver our Champion Girls Project to reach 300 inactive young women.

The bigger picture?

Every child is designed to move and to ensure physical literacy becomes the norm for this and future generations, I think the three Cs are important:

Creative – in our ideas and approaches. If a young person is inactive, it’s because we haven’t been able to offer them the opportunity and experience they’re looking for yet. Let’s all think bigger and be less risk averse.

Consistent – despite the curve balls life will throw at young people, it’s vital that they always have access to affordable, fun and inclusive sport and physical activity opportunities. And, crucially, a youth worker or coach who can act as their springboard/safety net depending on where they are on their journey

Commitment – from policy makers and funders to keep working with organisations like ourselves to set long term plans and invest in these at appropriate levels to deliver measurable impact. Crucially, make every effort to not complicate children and young people moving and having fun.

sports photo - boxing

I’ll end on what #Fitness2me is about as a 34 year old:

1. It supports my wellbeing, and equips me with a quiet self-confidence that regardless what the day ahead has to throw at me I will be okay

2. It is the connection to so many of my social interactions. It has given me so many happy memories, created a network of friends that will last a lifetime and always allowed me to be part of a community

3. It’s provided access to a career (not just a job) that I love doing

John Jones – Sports Development Manager

@JustJohnJones


Find out more about our sports programme here.

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