Tuesday, May 22, 2012

#sportwalesconf: Engaging children and young people from deprived communities

As part of our Sport Wales Annual Conference 2012 guest panelist and StreetGames Wales Manager, Caro Wild, gives his views on engaging children and young people from deprived communities. What's your view? Join the #sportwalesconf discussion and share your opinion with @sport_wales on Twitter. 

Sport in the UK is not currently 'for all' and every child is not 'hooked on sport.'

We've gone a little wrong somewhere. 

I'm not going to bore you with stats. But the evidence base is there: Fewer people are playing sport, more people are overweight - or worse; obese - kids are bored and (at times quite literally) running riot. And the one in three children in Wales living in poverty (yes really) are even less likely to play sport, joining the disabled, females, and those from a black and ethnic minority background as groups far less likely to be active.

And this isn't a demand issue; the evidence is there that shows that demand is usually higher from these groups.

The reasons for this are far too wide to cover in any detail here. And to gain a full understanding one would need to consider factors such as national health trends, transport changes, town planning, teaching practice, technology, the media, outward migration of role models, new mediums, and even the growth in car ownership. 

So we've got a lot of work to do. And if we're going to get every child hooked on sport we're clearly going to need to do things differently.

But first of all I believe we've got another problem in sport. I am going to generalise a bit to make a point here.

I see several Local Authority sport development teams who have failed to create good links with other departments (I appreciate that this isn't always their fault). We have over-complicated sport (Coaching certification policy being one example). And worst of all we've sometimes acted like we own sport. Like I said, this isn't necessarily sport's fault. And I am astounded when I (regularly) meet Local Authorities whose departments you would think would be 'all over' sport don't actually meet, talk and do stuff together.

We can shift this though.

There's a lovely saying, I only heard recently (although I understand it isn't new): 'A small clever country called Wales.' And this sums up why I believe we can get every child hooked on sport, and it is why I really believe we can change many of our communities through the power of sport. We are small enough to understand what is happening in different places, we have a government who are in a position to allow real difference, we have smart brains wanting to change things and we have amazing young people ready to get moving.

For me, the cleverest thing we - sport's guardians - can do is to give it away freely to people and organisations. No terms and conditions, no contracts, no fee and no paperwork. Let them have it. Let them grow it. Let them be creative with it and be inspired by it. If we're going to make step changes it's not going to be using the same systems, it is going to be by breaking down systems, barriers, old-fashioned styles, mistrust and inertia.

What a great time to be involved in sport in Wales.

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