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30 January 2019

On Sunday 28th April, sometime in the afternoon, I plan to be crossing the finishing line on The Mall having completed the 2019 London Marathon, my first ever one!  As I meet up with friends and family, sip a cold beer and rest my legs, I’ll make sure to give myself a few moments to reflect on my London Youth journey that started 10 years ago, aged 23.    

I took up the role as Sport Development Officer on 5th January 2009, having spent two years working for Nacro in Bedford, as their SCORE Project Co-ordinator. Without realising it, that was the day London adopted me, and a decade (and counting) of sports focused youth work began. 

During the last 10 years, I’ve seen countless examples of how good youth work, through organisations embedded in communities, has enabled children and young people to develop a positive relationship with sport and physical activity and help them develop active habits for life.  I’m proud to be part of a team that has worked directly with over 30,000 young Londoners to create meaningful and enjoyable sport and physical activity experiences, all the time creating more confident, resilient and better-connected young people.  

That being said, are we perfect? No! Will we rest on our laurels? No! Is there more that can be done? Yes!   

The recent Active Lives Children and Young People survey (Sport England) indicates that over 40% of young Londoners live active lives. However, young people aged 16 and under in London are less likely than their peers across the country to meet the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of more than 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Responsibility for this must be shared, with schools, families and sport clubs all playing a key role.  London Youth’s network of 464 (and growing) trusted community youth organisations play an essential part in in reaching young Londoners who are either inactive or are looking to-do more.  Here’s why: 

  • They offer creative, enjoyable and supportive environments for young people to explore how sport/physical activity works for them without fear of judgement 
  • Through skilled youth workers and quality community sport coaches they ensure young people have a consistent support structure, safety net and springboard to fulfil their potential and access to support for their overall wellbeing. 
  • Potential is unlocked, and young people are developed into confident and capable sport leaders whose voice and actions impact the wider community. 
  • They are the heartbeat of local communities, fostering relationships and pathways to ensure young people now and generations of the future are not excluded/hidden from the benefits of sport and physical activity that many of us take for granted. 

As a parent I am now responsible for my own young Londoner (Freddie) and in June 2019, will be responsible for one more.  I want to ensure that young people including Fred and TBC Jones have access to opportunities outside of school to have fun with their friends, to be healthy and creative, to make positive changes in their communities and to shape the kind of city they want for the future.  Personally, and professionally, it’s why I’m #RunningforYouthWork and aiming to raise £2,500 for London Youth.

As I won’t be writing another blog until 2029, I wanted to finish off with some advice to my 23-year-old self. 

  1. Like the marathon, there’s a whole community of people who genuinely want to help and see you succeed. You don’t need to have all the answers so focus on building your networks and leaning on them for support. 
  2. Don’t try to compare or model your journey/leadership style to others.  Explore and find what works for you and embrace that. 
  3. Keep a clear sight on a good work/life balance and remember that being active is what makes you tick, not just something you are supporting others with. 

 John Jones – Sports Development Officer

To support John reach his fundraising target and create more sport participation opportunities for young Londoners, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jjlondonyouth . You can also follow his progress via @JustJohnJones #RunningforYouthWork 

To find out more about London Youth’s Sport Development Programme, please click here.

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