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Encouraging Sports and Physical Activity in Nottinghamshire’s Young People

A large number of young people play sport regularly but participation in sport and physical activity is not growing. It is really important that we try and increase participation levels amongst Nottinghamshire’s young people, as we know just how important exercise is for wellbeing.

Why are young people sometimes reluctant to participate in sports?

Children and young people nowadays are growing up in different circumstances to previous generations. Young people are growing up in an era when technology is integral. There are very few activities that are separated by being online and offline. This is where sport and physical activity often differs.

Why is it important to give attention to young people’s attitudes towards sport and physical activity?

As young people get older and into their teenage years, different things happen. Many become more interested in fitness as a way to look and feel good while many grow insecure and uncomfortable through puberty and into adolescence. Often, young people might develop negative associations about sport. This could be because of previous experience or a lack of confidence in their ability.

What are young people looking for in a sport?

Young people want sport to be fun. However, many people’s last memories of sport as fun occur before secondary school age. After this time, sport seems to become more serious for most people and there is a much clearer divide between young people who are talented and love sport and young people who aren’t typically sport and who don’t like sport.

Young people also want their sporting experiences to be purposeful. They might want to look and feel good (this is particularly true for older teens).

How can we encourage participation in sport amongst young people?

For most young people, their experiences need to have meaning. There has to be a reason that makes a young person return to an activity or a sport so that it develops into a habit. For many, sport has benefits for them as it helps them to develop themselves and also reinforces their positioning in a social group.

In order to encourage the least interested parties, it is important to broaden the sporting offer. Having more diverse activities will help to encourage people to have a go as there are fewer expectations of standards. Events like ‘Tough Mudder’ challenges and races with large numbers participating, seem to be increasing in popularity, which is something that young people are joining in with too.

Encouraging Nottinghamshire’s young people

The creating of the Notts School Games occurred in order to boost involvement in physical activity and sport for young people in Nottinghamshire of all backgrounds and abilities. Its creation has meant a significant increase in the number of the competitive school sports events throughout the year. The idea is that school games will inspire children to lead a healthier and happier life. There are over 30 sports in school games and there are three levels of games.

1 – Intra-School Competitions

For a lot of youngsters, the intra-school competitions will be their first competitive sports experience. There are a lot of opportunities for competition such as form competitions, house competitions and PE-based competitions all within a single school. The Level 1 could also encourage the young people for reaching their personal bests through award systems like the Aviva UKA Academy Sportshall Awards.

2 – District Level Inter-School Competitions

At level 2, teams and individuals compete against other different schools in selected sports and other events in the same district.

3 – Championship Finals of Nottinghamshire School Games

This level features the best sporting school in this county – those who have won at level 2 in an event or a league. There are two such Championship Final events each year – one in the summer and one in the winter. The games are held at a sporting venue somewhere in Nottinghamshire and are multi-sport occasion that has an opening and closing ceremony.

There is the opportunity for level 3 winners to progress to the regional finals or even to national competitions should they be successful at the regional level.

There has been an addition to the level 3 games recently. This is the Inclusive Competition Calendar of the Notts School Games, which has created competitive sporting events for the young disable people from both special schools and mainstream schools.

In 2018, summer finals took place at Nottingham Trent University Clifton Campus and saw more than one thousand young people join in sports and other activities between the ages of seven and sixteen.

The School Games certainly had a very good festival atmosphere and were a real celebration of sports through the county. There were also other games to enjoy during non-competition downtime and other entertainment.

The school game really does encourage youth participation in physical activities and are certainly something other counties could look at.