Despite the challenges Covid has presented for the youth sport sector, children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust which is behind the event said 1,300 young athletes will return to the School Games National Finals on 2 September.
It is thanks to funding from the National Lottery through Sport England, and the commitment of coaches, National Governing Bodies of Sport, British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association, and athletes themselves.
The event will run over four days at Loughborough University and will ensure young people aspiring to compete at the likes of the Brisbane 2032 Olympics and Paralympics experience a multi-sport event and receive wellbeing support on their journey. It has proven to be a key steppingstone in the careers of Team GB Olympic heroes including Adam Peaty and Dina Asher-Smith.
Steps that have been taken to ensure the School Games National Finals will be Covid safe in a post pandemic world include the appointment of one of Wimbledon 2021’s team doctors Natasha Beach, working with local public health officials, testing and temperature checks for all athletes and event staff on site, social distancing and athlete bubbles, spectators replaced with live streams of the action, and mask wearing.
Dr Natasha Beach, Chief Medical Officer for this year’s School Games National Finals, said:
“I am really excited to have joined the School Games National Finals event team. I am looking forward to leading the development of the protocols in place to ensure that all the young athletes who will compete in just a few weeks’ time have the best and safest experience possible. Having worked as a Covid medical officer at events like The Hundred, Vitality Netball Super League and Wimbledon Junior Qualifying, it is great to see the innovation from the world of sport that is taking place as we come out of the pandemic and get back to competition.”
With athletes like Simone Biles and Adam Peaty hitting the headlines for prioritising their mental health over competition recently, a key part of the event is the Athlete Education Programme. Young competitors are paired with one of the Youth Sport Trust’s athlete mentors to learn from their experiences, take part in workshops and look at life alongside sport, the stresses of social media during competition, and how to make the right decisions at the right time.
Will Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of the Youth Sport Trust, said:
“It has been a huge achievement by all involved to see the return of this year’s School Games National Finals, and I am incredibly proud of the innovation that has happened to ensure a generation of talented young people have the opportunity to compete with other athletes across the UK.
“This year, alongside all the excitement of the competition and the values our athletes will learn through the triumphs and tribulations, we will have a heavy focus on athlete wellbeing. It has been a historical moment in time following the Olympics with athletes choosing to protect mental health above competition and there are lessons to be learned.
“It is important to us that we provide young people with the key coping mechanisms and experiences they need to take on the world stage and be happy and healthy.”
Young people will compete in 10 sports across the event, four of which include disability competition. The sports are Athletics, BMX, Cycling, Triathlon, Hockey, Netball, Laser Run, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Tennis and Girls Cricket.
For more information on the event and livestreaming visit www.schoolgamesfinals.org. You can also join in the conversation online by using #2021SG and following @_SchoolGames and @YouthSportTrust.