I have been fortunate to be involved in many occasions that could be regarded as inspirational. From my five gold medals for Great Britain as an Olympic rower, to my role in the lighting of the cauldron at London 2012 – there have been a number of high profile occasions where I have been part of events with the power to inspire others. Most importantly of all, I hope they have been moments in time that have inspired young people.
If we are to become a healthier, more active nation then we must encourage and inspire school children to develop an interest in PE and sport and ensure it becomes a part of their everyday lifestyle. Not everyone can be an Olympic champion, but it is not unrealistic to believe that everyone can develop an enthusiasm for sport and physical activity at school which they can carry on throughout their lives.
This is why I am involved as an ambassador for Sporting Promise, an initiative that is supported by Sporting Pro and Matalan and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust. In primary schools Sporting Promise supports the delivery of PE and sport in schools by enabling teachers to unlock the potential of their pupils, and at secondary level it has a focus on promoting alternative sports to engage more young people.
I have visited a range of schools across the country where this work is having a positive impact. I have joined pupils in dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, street cheer and jump rope, to name just a few of the alternative activities that are being made available through this programme..
These sports are offering something new to pupils, who may not necessarily be interested in the more traditional sports associated with school life. They are reaching out to pupils in a fun, energetic way which is getting them more active whatever their age or ability. It is helping them understand that sport and physical activity can be an enjoyable part of school which they can look forward to with enthusiasm.
And I have seen the results for myself when I visit schools. Groups of girls that wouldn’t be remotely interested in cricket or football, have been charging around and in many cases getting competitive, in a game of dodgeball; quiet, unassuming boys who may not have the greatest confidence come alive when they take each other on at ultimate frisbee. It is when you see results like this that you know you are making a significant impact on the lives of young people.
What can often go unseen is the wider impact that this kind of activity can have on young people. Sport has helped me to develop so many life skills and I firmly believe that it can have the same impact on children as they progress through school. Determination, team work and communication are just three areas where sport has supported me in all areas of my life. These same skills can be developed by young people who take part in regular PE and sport and can help them in subjects across the curriculum.
Only recently the Government announced that it would continue significant investment into PE and sport if it is successful in winning the next election. Any commitment by Government or political parties that has a focus on improving the health and activity levels of the nation should be welcomed – especially as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid was secured on the promise of delivering a legacy from the Games.
Government investment can make a significant impact, but we should not underestimate the huge value of the partnership work we are seeing through Sporting Pro, Matalan and the Youth Sport Trust in schools. These are all organisations that are experts in their fields and by combining knowledge and expertise they are able to have a significant impact in supporting schools in their delivery of PE and sport – offering new, innovative solutions that could otherwise be overlooked.
To celebrate the success of Sporting Promise we want to hear how, through Sporting Promise, sport is changing lives in your schools and are encouraging you to nominate a young person for the Sporting Promise Outstanding Young Person of the Year Award. To enter visit www.sportingpromise.co.uk/