The life changing benefits of play and sport are an #OpenGoal

CEO Ali Oliver discusses why the Youth Sport Trust is pleased to mark the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace by supporting the second anniversary of the #OpenGoal framework.

With the Oscars and BAFTAs taking place recently, it feels like awards season is in full swing - something we have felt first-hand at the Youth Sport Trust recently with the Sport Gives Back Awards and our very own Annual Conference Awards taking place in the past couple of weeks. Both events were a reminder of the fact that school sport can and should be recognised as sport for development – sport is an important contributor to the education and development of children and young people.

The Youth Sport Trust, alongside seven other charities took part in the Sport Gives Back Awards, recognising the role grassroots sport can play in addressing social challenges. On the evening, the Trust was delighted to present Jill Newbolt with the Youth Sport Trust Building Brighter Future's Award 2024. Jill is a Youth Sport Trust lead inclusion practitioner who has dedicated her career to breaking down the barriers society places on children with disabilities in sports and physical education, particularly those with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

In November 2023, Jill's school, Abbey School in Rotherham, a Youth Sport Trust lead inclusion School, held an inclusion festival, at the New York Stadium in Sheffield. In the film created for the awards, we see the story of Ella and Jacob, two young leaders who attend Abbey School. Supported by Jill, Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor Rachael Mackenzie and former Javelin World Champion, and Olympic medallist Fatima Whitbread, this short film follows the build-up to the event as Jacob and Ella prepare to lead the festival for their peers.


Jill’s school is part of the NEXUS Academy Trust, who were highly commended in the Outstanding Multi Academy Trust Practice category at our Annual Conference Awards recently. The evening celebrated the incredible schools, educators and people who do so much great work throughout the year, making a real and impactful change to the lives of young people. You can see the full list of winners and highly commended finalists on our website, with more detail about the inspiring work they are all doing.

Award ceremonies are a wonderful opportunity to step back and hear and share stories that we might otherwise miss in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Being able to reflect and share these powerful stories more widely is just one of the reasons the Youth Sport Trust is pleased to mark the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on 6th April, by supporting the second anniversary of the #OpenGoal framework.

#OpenGoal has been created by the Sport for Development Coalition, supported by members including the Youth Sport Trust to highlight how sport and physical activity can contribute to building a healthier, more equitable and sustainable future. I believe the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is such an important day to mark, as it provides the opportunity to step back, reflect and recognise how sport can deliver positive social outcomes. I feel sport is such a powerful force for good, particularly when it comes to young people and all the challenges faced by them around the world today. I know I am not alone in this as we will see from the many other inspiring and impactful stories we will see shared as part of #OpenGoal.

As with the Oscar and BAFTA winners on the red carpet, awards such as the ones above only capture a small essence of the incredible work that goes on behind the scenes all over the country, supporting young people, helping them to become more active, and enabling them to live brighter, better futures.

Our impact report released earlier this year outlined how we worked with over 140,000 young people and trained over 8,500 practitioners in 2023 to provide high quality, inclusive PE and school sport. As you dive deeper into the programmes we deliver alongside our partners, you learn that 89% of Girls Active Leaders felt more motivated to take part in sport and physical activity after taking part in the programme. 78% of Student Mentors reported an increase in their confidence to take part in sport and physical activity as a result of taking part in Lidl’s Sport for Good in Northern Ireland and 87% of participants on Set for Success now know more about how their skills can help them in the future, with 80% have more confidence that they will do well in life.

It's clear that offering young people the opportunity to enjoy the life-changing benefits of play and sport really is an #OpenGoal and I’m proud the Youth Sport Trust is playing our part in demonstrating the hugely positive impact the sport for development sector is having on society.

Published on 5 April 2024