Thursday 14 November 2013
West Ham United have been encouraging local youngsters to get into sports and widening their experience of sports with two recent events through the Premier League 4 Sport programme.
Last month West Ham United Community Sports Trust hosted a multi-sports tournament at UEL Sports Dock with local children in school years nine to eleven competing on basketball and badminton courts.
What is Premier League 4 Sport?
PL4Sport uses the power of the football club brand to engage and encourage children to participate in other sports. It has recently expanded to 12 sports and is delivered by 34 football clubs. The programme received a boost in the form of a new £16.8m partnership between the Premier League and Sport England to 2016
Cheering them on was Great Britain basketball star Dan Clark, who plays in Spain, but dropped in to see the multi-sports tournament and support PL4Sport.
"This is the first time I've been here and it's great," Clark said. "It's a pleasure seeing so many kids playing basketball.
"Not everyone is destined to be a footballer. So it's a great idea, having different sports arranged and allowing kids to enjoy it. It's about getting involved, doing some physical activity and having fun in the process."
Ross McKinley, of the Premier League, agreed with Clark that the delivery of a variety of sports is the way forward for PL4Sport, especially offering the opportunity to participate in sports that are not played within the school arena.
"A lot of the sports that have evolved as part of the programme are traditionally underplayed sports," McKinley said. "So it's great for the governing bodies involved and it's great for what we call the hub clubs, which are community clubs, to grow and expand their infrastructure.
"When PL4S first started, competitions like this weren't really on the agenda. It has grown and the nature of football and football clubs and the way that they compete on a football pitch has been replicated on a badminton court or in a basketball arena like this. It is something the young people look forward to, something they can work towards in their training sessions and it gives them that bit extra as part of the programme."
PL4Sport has increased this year to include 12 sports, with boxing, golf, tennis and athletics featuring in the latest expansion, but promoting women's football remains a key element of the programme. To promote female participation, the Sports Trust celebrated the launch of its Women's and Girls' football project with a five-a-side tournament at Stratford's state-of-the-art Chobham Academy, where more than 100 women took part.
Helping to inspire them at the academy were West Ham United Ladies players Sophie Reed and Faye Picton. Two tournaments were held, one for under-14s, that was won by Heartlands High School of Haringey, and one for women aged 16-25, in which UEL Women's team triumphed.
"The Trust has shown how projects like Premier League 4 Sport can really benefit the local community"
Shamajul Motin, the PL4Sport programme manager for the Sports Trust, paid tribute to Active Newham for their support and is planning a bigger tournament at the year’s end.
"The event was very much a partnership approach, with everyone coming together to make this happen," he said. "It was an opportunity for all the girls to come together. Rather than regular weekly sessions, this is what it's about, tournaments to try to win trophies.
"We had one team from Spurs and for the next holidays, you'll see the Arsenals and Chelseas coming too. This is what the girls want to do, put the West Ham kit on and represent their club against other teams."
Active Newham sports and activity manager Fiona Miley lauded the impact of the Trust’s latest work.
"Over the last few months, the Trust has shown how projects like PL4S and Premier League Kicks can really benefit the local community," she said. "To see so many females participating is testament to how sport can make a difference to young lives."
Bridging the gap between junior and senior women's football remains the biggest stumbling block for many aspiring footballers and Reed thinks programmes such as these have a big role to play.
"PL4S is great, because it's at the age where there's a big dropout," she said. "That's where we're trying to go in and get girls playing football and the aim is to try and get them playing for teams outside of school as well."
All clubs within the Premier League and many outside the competition run similar Premier League 4 Sport programmes to help local children. Click on the links to the right for the club community department nearest to you for more information.