Lidl Northern Ireland and the Youth Sport Trust are working in partnership to support 25 secondary schools across Northern Ireland to benefit from a dedicated Mental Health Athlete Mentorship programme this academic year.
It is part of Lidl's award-winning Sport for Good initiative, with each school also scoring £1,000 worth of brand-new sports equipment. This week, 25 winning schools have been announced – hailing from towns from all across the region – who were selected for the programme following a call out for competition entries in October and were nominated by Lidl local shoppers.
A team of Northern Ireland’s best-known athletes have been selected and specially trained by the Youth Sport Trust, the UK’s leading charity improving young people’s education and development through sport and play, to run a series of workshops targeted at secondary school pupils, with a focus on boosting young people’s social skills, self-esteem and body confidence through sports participation.
Representing a strong cross-section of sport and boasting an impressive array of achievements, the stellar line up of NI sports stars delivering this year’s mental health workshops include four-time Paralympic athletics champion Michael McKillop MBE, Olympic steeplechase athlete, Kerry O’Flaherty, Olympic hockey heroes, Shirley McCay MBE and Eugene Magee, Northern Ireland netball international and Armagh ladies' Gaelic footballer, Caroline O’Hanlon, and female rugby union international and Olympian, Ashleigh Baxter.
Commenting on the mentorship workshops Shirley McCay MBE said:
“The Lidl Northern Ireland Sport for Good initiative has been a hugely exciting opportunity for me to get involved with local communities and to continue to support youth sport. When visiting schools to deliver this year’s workshops, I want to show these young adults that there is more to sport than the physical benefits. From gaining confidence in their abilities, to building resilience when things don’t go to plan on game day, these are vital skills that will transfer to their everyday lives.
“I am delighted to be involved in delivering the mental health workshops for the second year in a row and look forward to visiting the winning schools and working alongside the pupils."
The Lidl Northern Ireland Sport for Good programme is also supported by three local sporting heroes and long-standing Sport for Good Ambassadors - six-time Paralympic gold medallist swimmer, Bethany Firth OBE, Gymnastics World Champion, Rhys McClenaghan and Olympic runner and European and Commonwealth silver medallist, Ciara Mageean.
Sport for Good Ambassador and Gymnastics World Champion, Rhys McClenaghan said:
“Sport plays such a positive role in improving young people’s confidence both on and off the field and that’s why I’m proud to be an ambassador for Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good programme. The Mental Health Athlete Mentorship programme has already made a real impact on thousands of students here, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to build resilience, self-esteem and better manage stress, leading to a much healthier and more positive mindset as they go into adulthood. The workshops really do equip young people with skills for life.
“As a World Champion competing at the highest level of international gymnastics, I know only too well how important good mental health is, and I hope that my involvement with the programme will help inspire other young people into sport and really connecting with their own mental health. I congratulate all 25 schools selected for this year’s programme and I look forward to seeing the ongoing impact the workshops make on young people across the region.”
Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good Schools Programme launched last year after research revealed that 45% of young people in Northern Ireland said their mental health worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic*.
Developed in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, the programme has supported more than 5,200 secondary school pupils across Northern Ireland to date. Survey feedback revealed that 83% of participants felt Lidl Northern Ireland’s programme boosted their overall confidence and 100% of teachers committed to changing their mental health support programmes as a result of the workshops.
This year, the programme aims to include a wider representation of lower ranking schools for Income Affecting Children’s Deprivation (IACD) in a bid to level the playing field for those most disadvantaged and to support schools to build back healthier, happier and more resilient students.
Joe Mooney, Senior Partnerships Manager for Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland said:
“Lidl Northern Ireland is committed to supporting local communities and our established Sport for Good initiative is one of our flagship initiatives which aims to tackle issues head on. Since launching our Mental Health Athlete Mentorship Programme last year, we’ve been blown away by the feedback from students and employees and the transformative impact that the programme has had on young people right across Northern Ireland.
“We’re taking urgent action to ensure that access to mental health support through athlete mentorships is accessible to everyone, and particularly those schools in disadvantaged areas where young people may face a higher risk of mental health issues. Through our team of fantastic sporting heroes and mentors, we aim to identify and unlock barriers faced by young people and support them on a programme to better physical and mental health.
“I’m delighted to announce 25 schools selected to benefit from the programme this school year and I’d like to thank all of our loyal shoppers who took the time to nominate schools.”
Jenny Rouse, Commercial and Fundraising Director at Youth Sport Trust said:
“Our charity has 27 years of expertise in designing and delivering programmes to support young people to realise their potential. As we embark on our new Inspiring Changemakers, Building Belonging strategy, we are proud to be working in partnership with Lidl Northern Ireland to support young people across the region.
“Young people are growing up in a world where the cost-of-living crisis is having an increasing impact on their access to sport and physical activity and as a result more children are feeling lonely and disconnected. It is vital we support every young person to continue to access sport and physical activity to manage their wellbeing through initiatives like the Mental Health Athlete mentorship programme.”
Established in 2019, Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good campaign has supported more than 120 sports clubs and schools across Northern Ireland and provided more than £320,000 in funding to encourage more young people into sport.
The Sport for Good campaign is part of Lidl Northern Ireland’s commitment to support communities across Northern Ireland and forms part of the retailer’s longstanding ‘Lidl Community Works’ programme. First launched in 2014, the ‘Lidl Community Works’ programme has engaged more than 750 local community groups to date and raised more than £600,000 for charity partner NSPCC Northern Ireland.
For more information please visit lidl-ni.co.uk/lidl-community-works