Dame Katherine Grainger discusses athlete wellbeing at School Games

As more than 1,000 athletes compete in the 2018 School Games, a springboard for future sports stars, Dame Katherine Grainger discusses why medals and success cannot come at the expense of athlete’s wellbeing.

The School Games National Finals, which starts today, is one of the great legacies of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Just six years on from that incredible summer, it should be a source of national pride that over 20,000 talented young athletes have had the opportunity to compete in a huge multi-sport event at a pivotal stage in their sporting life.

Many of those athletes have gone on to fantastic sporting achievements. 219 competitors at this year’s Commonwealth Games – including 24 gold medal winners – cut their teeth in the School Games. Among the glittering list of the event’s alumni are the likes of Dina Asher-Smith, Jonnie Peacock, Adam Gemili, Hannah Cockroft and Elle Simmonds.

One of the truly special aspects of the School Games is what actually happens outside of competition. The 1,000-plus young athletes who compete at Loughborough University over the four days will leave with so much more than just medals and memories.

With the passion and energy of the Youth Sport Trust, which delivers the event through National Lottery funding from Sport England, every young athlete receives support, advice and training in how to achieve sporting success in the right way.

Competitors will receive mentoring from athletes helping them to balance sport with their studies and other commitments, manage pressure and maintain focus amid distractions like social media. At the centre of that is an ambition to nurture the wellbeing of every young athlete.

While there has been a lot to celebrate in high performance sport over the past 20 years, as Chair of UK Sport and a former athlete myself, I have been clear that medals and success cannot come at the expense of athlete’s wellbeing. This is crucial to sustain long-term success and continued enjoyment of sport.

Transforming the approach to athlete welfare has been one of the greatest challenges facing high performance sport in recent years. So, it is fantastic that an event like the School Games is helping to lead the way and get this right from an early stage.

But this is a challenge which transcends the world of elite sport.

Coming from a family of teachers, I have been dismayed to see the decline of physical activity within schools. Recent research from the Youth Sport Trust showing that almost two-in-five English secondary schools have cut timetabled PE since 2012.

Just as elite sport must not put the pursuit of medals ahead of the welfare of athletes, it would be incredibly short-sighted to put grades ahead of young people’s wellbeing.

In both cases, there isn’t a choice to be made between welfare and performance – the two go hand-in-hand.

During this year’s School Games, we’ll undoubtedly get to see some of the future stars who will be part of the long-term success of British sport.

But its most impressive legacy of all could be playing a crucial role in a culture change which helps sustain the success of British sport for generations to come.

Latest news

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson pledge to tackle inactivity

During YST National School Sport Week 2019, YST along with almost 100 partners wrote a joint letter to the two Conservative Party leadership candidates, urging them to commit to tackling the decline in young people's wellbeing and make it a priority to ensure every child enjoys at least 60 active minutes every day. These are their responses.
Continue Reading

Sport sector responds to Government's School Sport and Activity Action Plan

Leading sports bodies and charities respond to Government's School Sport and Activity Action Plan.
Continue Reading

Football camp inspires next generation of female coaches

England legend Faye White says it is vital to give girls the confidence and knowledge they need to inspire others and this camp helps girls to develop both coaching and refereeing knowledge.
Continue Reading

Youth Sport Trust supports Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code

The Youth Sport Trust is proud to support the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code – the only sun protection initiative for children in sport and outdoor activity – which is back with a fresh, new look.
Continue Reading

National School Sport Week sees thousands of schools join campaign to protect PE

Giant sand sculptures, campaigning across the UK to raise awareness of PE and sport’s importance, and dozens of MP visits to school sports days. National School Sport Week 2019 had a theme of Five Ways to Wellbeing and saw thousands of schools and organisations take part.
Continue Reading

An open letter to Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson

We ask you to publicly pledge that tackling the decline in young people’s overall wellbeing will be a key pillar of your programme for government, and that your government will set out bold, ambitious and measurable targets to harness the power of play, sport and physical education to ensure every child enjoys at least 60 active minutes a day.
Continue Reading
More News