Olympics legacy: How can we encourage kids into sport?

Top L:R Helen Glover, rowing (gold); Morgyn Peters, paralympic swimming; James Disney-May, swimming; Middle L:R Christina Schütze, hockey (Germany); Sophie Williams, fencing; Arthur Lanigan O'Keefe, modern pentathlon (Ireland) Bottom L:R Carl Myerscough, shotput; Ian Haley, hockey (South Africa); Peter Wilson, shooting (gold) Millfield School has nine current and former pupils competing at the London 2012 Olympics, including Helen Glover, top left, who won rowing gold, and Peter Wilson, bottom right, who took top honours in the shooting

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With Team GB celebrating their most successful Olympics for 100 years, a debate is growing about how best to build on the legacy and inspire the next generation into sport.

The message from David Cameron was clear - there needs to be "a big cultural change" towards sport in schools with a return to the "competitive ethos" in school sports.

The prime minister said the problem was not money and suggested some teachers were not "playing their part" but what do those in grassroots sport believe are the key ingredients for success?


Graeme Maw, director of sport at Millfield School, in Somerset, says every pupil at the school does a minimum of three hours of scheduled sport per week.

However, many pupils at the private school, which has nine former and current pupils competing at the London Games - more than any other school - do up to 22 hours of training. There are also more than 30 different sports on offer.

Mr Maw says the word "opportunity" is key.

"Sport and physical activity are the heartbeat of our community," says Mr Maw.

The Youth Sport Trust (YST) says it is important schools engage everyone, for example by involving young people in the selection and planning of sport and activities.

Schools also need to broaden the range of lunchtime and after-hours clubs to increase opportunities for young people to take part, it says.

It is an ethos Mr Maw agrees with. "Dance might not be an Olympic sport but it's something that young girls really enjoy - it's about finding and discovering individual talent in a child," he adds.


Mr Cameron spoke on Wednesday of "some teachers not wanting to join in and play their part" when it came to school sports.

But Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), says his comments were "ill informed, unfair and fail to recognise the huge contribution that many teachers make to sports in schools".

"Many teachers, not just PE staff, willingly give up their time to motivate and coach young people in a wide range of sports," he says.

The YST says there must be teachers and coaches on the ground ready to support young people who show an interest in sport at primary and secondary level.


Mr Cameron has said the government is investing £1bn in school sports over the next four years, but "the problem isn't money".

David Mansfield, headteacher at Coopers' Company and Coborn School, in Essex, says investment is key. The state school was named the most sports-minded school in Europe in 2005 and Mr Mansfield says it is one of few that competes with public schools in national sport.

Prime Minister David Cameron meets children at a sports camp during a visit to the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow David Cameron has said the 2012 London Olympics will bring "a massive legacy" to Britain

Mr Mansfield says the school's success is down to putting extra money into sports, for example, the school employs a professional hockey coach. He describes funding as "the bottom line" and says there is a "straight-line correlation between outcomes and incomes".

"If schools are not on the front foot to identify talent then we're going to see a real fall away from the fantastic job that has been done (in the past)," he says.

Mr Trobe is critical of the removal of funding for the Schools Sports Partnership (SSP), a network of sports colleges in England - including the Coopers' school - that put specialist PE teachers to work with primary school pupils, linked schools with local sports clubs, brought high quality coaches into schools and promoted competitive matches.

Experts say it is too early to say how this will affect school sport participation.

But Mr Trobe says: "If the prime minister is serious about wanting to enhance sport in schools the funding will need to be put in place to support those very willing teachers and coaches to deliver a lasting sporting legacy."

Playing fields and facilities

The Fields in Trust (FIT), a UK charity that protects recreational spaces, says funding is essential - but it is important not to forget about the fields themselves.

"It is important to look beyond the funding when considering sporting legacy for a golden future," said Alison Moore-Gwyn, chief executive.

Chad Le Clos's father Bert is overcome with pride after his win

"David Cameron has initiated this process but it is vital that other elements which nurture sporting ability are not overlooked. A fundamental one is the provision of space for people to discover and hone their talent."

The charity's Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge focuses on this, says Ms Moore-Gwyn. The scheme works with landowners to protect their outdoor recreational spaces, aiming for 2,012 of them by the end of this year.

The YTS says school and council facilities should also be opened up after hours.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Education Secretary Michael Gove has approved the sale of more than 20 school sports fields in the past two years.

But FIT said more concerning was the situation for academies and new free schools, which are exempt from government regulations that govern mainstream schools' freedom to sell off their playing fields. There could be an unknown number of other sports pitches that have been lost, it said.

"This could have serious implications for our sporting legacy," a spokeswoman said.

Competitive spirit

The prime minister has called for a return to the "competitive ethos" and "getting rid of the idea all must win prizes and you can't have competitive sports days".

But British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan says many children do not want to play competitive sport, nor should they have to.

"The key thing is to make sure that where they do want to there's the facility and the opportunity for them to do so and that's our emphasis and has been our emphasis throughout," he says.

The YST adds that the first experience young people have of sport needs to be as positive as possible to encourage them to go further.

Role models

This week a survey of 2,000 people by Freeview found that seven out of 10 thought Team GB athletes had replaced music stars and footballers as role models.

During the Games so far many stars have served to inspire young athletes.

Alan Davis, head coach at the Maindy Flyers club in Cardiff, where gold medal-winning cyclist Geraint Thomas trained until he was 16, said Thomas was "the perfect role model".

"He's humble and takes his success and occasional setbacks equally well. What better example to give nine-year-old kids," he said.

While Jessica Ennis's former PE teacher has said she is inspiring a new generation of athletes.

Chris Eccles, who taught Miss Ennis at King Ecgbert School, Sheffield, said: "They are inspired by her because they can see someone from their own town being so successful."

Committed parents

They have been on show throughout the Games, none more so than Chad Le Clos's father Bert who paid tribute to his "beautiful boy" after winning a swimming gold, but parents are often key to many Olympic successes.

John Steele, chief executive officer at the YST, says: "For every gold medal and Olympic athlete we have had the pleasure to watch performing at the Games, there is a teacher, coach or parent that inspired them to start the journey to be their personal best."

The YST says parents should encourage their children to lead active lifestyles and get them involved in sport, but parents themselves also need to be encouraged into volunteering roles in sports clubs and school sports activity.


Mr Maw says it is important to find ways to celebrate sport and make it fun.

Last year 2,000 of Millfield's pupils and 450 members of staff ran a total of 2,755 miles, raising £21,000 for Sport Relief.

He says it is about "everybody having fun in the name of sport".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Nick, No not as an athletics coach, but as an engineer, you will find i am excellent at sums.
    I never mentioned frozen ready meals, which yes are pricey, however a frozen goods store will do bags of frozen chips and chicken dippers etc £1 each.
    The meal you suggest wouldn`t be filling for the average person, involved in sport.
    Looking at your posts, have anything positive to add?

  • Comment number 287.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 286.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Local, free/low cost, youth centres with access to sporting venues with heavily subsidised entrance, would be best. School facilities could be used as they are for evening classes. Paid coaches (insured) to teach and talent spot future Olympians perhaps with volunteer help, while everyone gets the opportunity to participate for fun and health. It needs money. LOCAL not reliant on cars/adults etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    You have to wonder how much better we can actually go . Is it realistic to think we could every beat china or the US on the medals table . We are ahead of all other nations by a significant stretch even though we have a small population .
    Cmon , we are doing really well . Stop the moaning from the people in charge...

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    @275. joe606

    Well clearly to be a qualified athletics coach you do not be too hot at sums.

    I'm not into bashing those on benefits - whatever your budget is, healthy food is cheaper than frozen ready meals and the like.

    Are you honestly telling me that a cheese and tomato sandwich, an apple and a glass of water is out of reach for financial reasons?

    Pricing is not the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Invest all your sports budget in play stations, X boxes, grossly over-priced trainers, flashy gold jewellery, trousers far too big around the waist, and fast food vouchers. Take these to a dog racing track and attach them to the lure. Corral children at the start of the track,release the lure and stand back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Simple: help kids find something they enjoy doing and then help them get better at it.

    I was worst in the school at tennis, dumped with the trainee teachers and hated PE. I took it upon myself to find a sport to lose weight and now I run an hour a day and massively enjoy it. Schools should help ALL people find what they enjoy, not just those good at traditional sports or who might win a race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    School sport is vastly superior but teachers have abdicated their responsibility since the Baker pay settlement. Club sport spreads bad attitudes with too many coaches fancying themselves as mini-me Alex Fergusons. It's up to teachers to support extra curricula sports activity

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Being home educated I was spared the off-putting experience of being 'forced' to do any sport . If i wanted to pursue something , I could but there was no pressure to do anything that I was outright bad at ,between ages 9 and 13 , tennis was my life but due to the elitist nature of the upper class LTA I now only play for fun :( .Get kids doing what they are naturally good , not what they hate .

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    I work in Primary and sport has always been high on my personal agenda and on that of the schools and boroughs in which i've taught. Teachers give time to run clubs and fixtures in a wide variety of sport - and the Sports P'rship only added to this before funding was sliced. If only Govt ministers got off their backsides into real schools they'd see the work people do at the chalk-face EVERY day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I went to a sports-mad school where you played games EVERY lunchtime, with the keen staying after class to play some more. I was rubbish at it, especially tennis... but learned to umpire, so was still able to get involved. (In fact I ended up a better umpire than the head of games, and she played at Wimbledon...) It's all about getting involved and enjoying it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    @273 - The article doesn't say an extra £1billion, it just says £1billion. Over four years, £250million a year, 9 million school children - £27 per pupil a year.

    It's not all that much really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Either you have too much money or eat very little.

    I am a qualified athletics coach, with an interest in many sports and i am well read on each of them and their energy requirements.

    A family on low income or a single person on benefits (getting approximately £50 a week to pay utility bills, groceries etc) would struggle to put fresh food on the table every night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Re 241. So true. I had no aptitude for sport, couldn't run fast, catch/hit balls, balance etc. Consequently picked last etc. School communal changing rooms were also pretty grim and grubby. Put me right off. Being outwalking in the countryside much better and I'll bet I've experienced the majesty of nature far more than many tied to a pitch, pool or track.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Sports/PE - get an extra 1billion - Science/Maths which is demanded by business and is actualy useful - Nothing - Vanity project alert

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    I went to private school as a day student where the days went from 9am-5:30pm during the week and 9am-4pm on Saturday.
    There were two hours on Monday afternoon where EVERYONE did sports, Wednesday afternoon is completely taken by sports and Saturday Afternoon is sport. Make the school days longer in all schools and make sport compulsory for ALL! Oh and stop selling land off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Yes, some time per week spent on sports/PE at school is good, but not every kid wants to play a sporrt, much as not every kid wants to help in the library, build things, or give the kitchen a hard time!
    Competition on sports day has long gone, much as those fields schols had to sell off to afford other things!
    We invest far too little in our nation's future - our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Where I live a perfectly good secondary school - with fields and sports facilities - has been closed, its land to become a housing estate. A new "academy" is being built (thanks to the efforts of local people) but has permission to build on the fields of the local park...where's the logic in that? Or is it just council greed????

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Please let's keep things in perspective. We are 3rd in the medal tally with a population of c.57 million. Can we really ever better that? Isn't the issue that we should be able to spot and support talent rather then force every school going child to endure hours of sport. By all means those that enjoy it should be encouraged. As for public v. private, those that have the money and the time ....


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