Team GB and ParalympicsGB heroes set to visit schools to build on Tokyo inspiration

Fresh from their heroics in Tokyo, British Olympians and Paralympians are now set to lift the spirits of a generation of young people through a nationwide programme of school visits.

Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust will be supporting the stars to get into classrooms across the UK this autumn and build on the inspiration and positivity children felt from watching them compete at this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.  

It comes as new research published today reveals the positive impact this summer’s events had on young people. A YouGov survey of 10 to 18-year-olds in Great Britain, commissioned by the Youth Sport Trust, reveals that 47% – approximately 3.1 million - watched at least some of the Olympic or Paralympic Games this summer.  

With more athletes speaking out about wellbeing at this summer’s events, 38% of young people aged 10 – 18 who watched the Games agreed it had made them think about their own mental health. Almost one-in-ten (9%) young viewers cited athletes speaking openly about their mental health as their favourite thing about the Games. 

The research highlights the powerful potential that big sporting events like the Olympics and Paralympics have to build a lasting positive impact on young people. Among those who watched some of the Games: 

  • Four in five (82%) agreed it made them feel happy.  
  • 71% agreed that it made them feel inspired to work hard at whatever they do. 
  • 28% agree it had made them want to try a new sport, with a similar number (26%) saying that seeing new sports was their favourite thing about watching the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The Youth Sport Trust will be working with UK Sport, British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association to seize on this opportunity and build a lasting legacy from the inspiration young people have felt this summer. Already, it has seen athletes coming forwards to support the programme including Team GB rugby sevens squad athletes, Robbie Fergusson, Abbie Brown, Emma Uren, Megan Jones and Ross McCann. Paralympic judoka Chris Skelley, Paralympic swimmer and paratriathlete Claire Cashmore and wheelchair rugby player Aaron Phipps will also be part of the programme.

The charity, which pioneered the concept of using athlete mentors as role models to inspire young people, will be supporting British Olympians and Paralympians to co-ordinate a programme of wellbeing-themed schools visits this term, targeting children who have suffered most during the pandemic. The stars will be supported by experienced YST Athlete Mentors to help bring their stories to life and talk to young people about recovery, rebuilding conference, aspirations, resilience and empathy.  

The Youth Sport Trust YouGov survey found that 47% of young people aged 10 to 18 agree athletes are important role models who can inspire them and their generation. One in four young people (24%) say that hearing athletes’ stories and how they have overcome challenges can help them in their lives. 

Ali Oliver MBE, CEO of the Youth Sport Trust, said:

“The performances of Team GB and ParalympicsGB this summer in Tokyo were inspiring, uplifting, and reunited a nation after the challenges and restrictions of the last 18 months. The team thrilled us on the track, in the gymnasium and field of play, but also showed us what it means to be courageous, resilient, and aspirational. They reflected the diversity of our communities more than any other Games and gave children and young people a new set of heroes, heroines and role models.  

“The inspiration young people felt from watching Team GB and ParalympicsGB this summer offers a golden opportunity. We are inviting athletes to join us on a mission to improve young people’s wellbeing and raise the profile of sport as a powerful tool in tackling many of the issues facing young people today such as anxiety, a lack of self-confidence and social isolation.” 

Andy Anson, CEO of the British Olympic Association, said:

“Every athlete I met in Tokyo talked about using their performance for Team GB to inspire and impact young people in a positive way. We tend to forget that every one of these brilliant Olympians have their own inspiration and role models to look up to, and it’s great that they want to use their profile and influence to help younger generations understand they can reach their goals, whether that is in the classroom or out on the sports field.” 

Mike Sharrock, Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, said:  

“Paralympic athletes have long dedicated their time to connecting with schools and communities, and for children and young people, the chance to meet athletes in their classrooms is incredibly powerful.

"Focusing on wellbeing and mental health is always important but the power of the Tokyo Games and the stories each athlete can tell about their experience of dealing with COVID, their training, their performance, their resilience and motivation will be fascinating and a great way of initiating conversations about mental health and wellbeing in schools across the UK.” 

Sally Munday MBE, CEO of UK Sport, said:  

“Throughout the Olympic and Paralympics Games in Tokyo, we have seen British athletes from all corners of the UK create extraordinary sporting moments that have united, lifted and inspired the country after such a challenging time. 

“We have so many socially conscious athletes who through their talent and character display the extraordinary power of sport to both lift a nation and contribute to making the world a better place. Our British athletes are amazing ambassadors and advocates for societal issues such as mental wellbeing, equality, diversity and sustainability.  

“There is now no better time, as schools return from the summer break, for British Olympians and returning Paralympians from Tokyo to revisit their old classrooms or step into completely new ones. Every single athlete has a story that involves confidence, aspiration, resilience or empathy and I have no doubt that young people from across the UK will be hugely inspired by these visits.” 

Details of how schools can take part will be announced in due course.

Olympics & Paralympics Inspiring A Generation

Read the research in full.

Published on 9 September 2021