It has been a week since Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People report was published and the findings were shocking, but not surprising writes CEO Chris Broadbent.
Less than one in five children are meeting the recommended activity guidelines, with one in three doing less than half an hour of physical activity per day. Teenage girls are less likely to be active, as are children from low income backgrounds.
Our Southwest based youth charity has had some real success stories in the last year as we have made a deliberate move away from ‘preaching to the converted’ in our programmes and targeting groups where participation is low to make a real difference in our communities.
As a result of the programme, in 2018;
- Nearly 1,000 young people became members of local sports clubs in the 3 months following their experiences with us.
- Five new under 13 girls’ rugby teams were created in Devon as a result of a collaboration with the RFU.
- Our Street Sports programme has proven to be 3X as effective at engaging young people from deprived communities into activity than traditional sports programmes.
We are building on this work by further developing our areas of success and using our market research to deliver an innovative programme for 2019. This includes Street Series SW, the region’s first street sports league, Adventure League - the region’s first outdoor pursuits League and the world’s first environment-themed multi-sports event - The Planet Earth Games. The programmes encourage participation in not just physical activity but also caring for the environment. Leaving no trace and in a better state than when we found it.
We know our events are a catalyst for activity in communities and the parents of our participants recognise our value. “My child felt empowered to play a game she had never felt good enough to play before” one of them emotively told us.
So, you would imagine that funding for an organisation like ours that has successful outcomes and an innovative programme would be easy to come by - particularly given the apparent political appetite to address child inactivity.
But our charity finds any funding extremely challenging to come by from local, regional or national bodies. It appears Sport, as a sector, has now become much more adept at data and analytics. Of course, it’s very important that the public get return on investment with some real outcomes and analysis has its place, but have we swung too far the other way? Are we neglecting bean planting for bean counting?
We now know more about the extent of child inactivity, obesity and rising mental health issues among the young than we ever have before. But the issue continues and is seemingly worsening. The same approach cannot go on, we must stem the tide!
Where are the real national and regional commitments to deliver something truly innovative and imaginative to engage a breadth of young people into regular physical activity beyond school PE?
In today’s world, I have much more accessible and affordable options in the community and online for sport and activity than my five-year-old twins do. That cannot be right. Where are the Strava and This Girl Can for children? Junior Parkrun is a positive move, but is still dwarfed by adult-dominated Parkrun.
A health crisis is looming and we are risking watching on passively as our children become less and less inactive. We owe them the opportunity of a healthy future.