As the charity delivers the School Games National Finals, the biggest multi-sport event for the nation’s most talented school aged athletes this weekend (30 August to 2 September) with funding from Sport England National Lottery, a targeted group of teenage girls have been inspired by thousands of aspiring athletes and England Rose Beth Cobden.
Following her success at the Commonwealth Games with the team in April, this season has not been without its challenges for the England Rose gold medallist. After sustaining a knee injury at the Netball Super League Final earlier this year, Beth talked with the young women about her journey, how sport has helped her to excel in life and how she is bouncing back as part of a netball masterclass.
This summer of women’s sport has been spectacular – not only for me as one of the England Roses who saw success at the Commonwealth Games but also as part of the wider sporting community and to feel the buzz of our female athletes’ success at the first European Championships and the resilience and tenacity of the England Women’s Hockey team in the World Cup.
The School Games National Finals sees more than 1,000 athletes aged between 14 and 18 compete across 11 different sports. 144 competitors will this year participate in the Netball competition as a new sport for the 2018 event with 342,000 opportunities for young people to participate in netball across the wider School Games programme at inter school level already created this year.
This year has been one of highs and lows for me and being at an event like the School Games National Finals is an important opportunity to share my learnings with aspiring athletes as well as a terrific opportunity to engage new generations and help close the gender gap that exists in sport participation at all levels.
Beth worked with 14 secondary school students who were spectating at the School Games National Finals to inspire them to achieve their personal best and understand resilience in and through sport. She is also playing a key role for young athletes involved in the competition as an athlete mentor.
England Netball reported that the day after their gold winning match at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games earlier this year there was almost a 2000% increase in traffic to the part of its website (when compared to the same time the previous month) that tells people where they can play netball. Netball is now the biggest team sport for women with 3.4% of the female population in England having played it in the last year.
The School Games National Finals takes place at Loughborough University and has helped to launch the careers of some of our top female athletes.
Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust – the national charity which pioneers new ways of using sport to improve children’s wellbeing and give them a brighter future, said:
A big aim of the School Games National Finals is to inspire the next generation – from the successful alumni inspiring this year’s competitors to reach for their personal best, to this year’s competitors inspiring the younger children from local schools visiting as spectators.
The event continues to launch the careers of some of our top female athletes, including sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, Ellie Simmonds, heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, and World champion wheelchair racer Samantha Kinghorn.
This is also the second year running that there are more girls than boys taking part in the School Games National Finals. This is a huge milestone towards closing the gender gap in sport.
We have made considerable progress in raising the profile of women’s sport and inspiring future generations, but we need to build on the momentum and get more young people and girls involved and enjoying sport.
Further information along with images and video from the Games and netball masterclass can be found at the online media hub: www.schoolgamesfinals.org/media-centre/video/