Creating Ocean Stars

by George Wells, Coaching and Leadership Manager at the Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation

In my role as Coaching and Leadership Manager at Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation, I am responsible for leading an exciting project which is part of Connecting Communities. 

It’s an initiative which has been funded by People’s Health Trust - using money raised by HealthRegard through The Health Lottery - and is delivered by the Youth Sport Trust.

Our project is called ‘Ocean Stars’ and is targeted at young people in Tower Hamlets from Somali backgrounds - encouraging them to take part in sport. Under-19 volleyball sessions are currently running for Somali young girls hosted at Central Foundation Girls School in Bow and we are looking to start up boys sessions shortly. 

Making up less than 1% of young people accessing community or mainstream sport clubs in our borough, Somali children are underrepresented, given that their population in Tower Hamlets is around 3%. There are many possible factors to explain this, not least the fact that around 80% of young Somalis in the borough live in poverty, with research indicating a direct correlation between poverty and low or non-participation in sport. The Ocean Stars project aims to address some of these local issues not just immediately, but indefinitely.

A major strand of the project involves mentoring, with the 16-19 year old coaches offered leadership courses, so that they can lead under-11 kids clubs for primary aged Somali children. It’s the aim that the young coaches take on a mentoring role, supporting with progression and encouraging the primary children to take part in sport. 

So far, three students have been introduced to our ‘Stepping Stones’ programme run within Tower Hamlets as a result of the Ocean Stars project. The participants have completed Level 2 Community Sports Leaders Awards and have gained part-time employment running local multi-sport ‘mini-clubs’.

The funding has been a major boost and we’re sure there will be many more success stories to come!