Young people launch Olympic legacy project in the South West with a splash
West Country's windsurfing world champion Izzy Hamilton was back on the lake where she learned to sail as a role model for young people from Devon and Cornwall at the launch of an exciting new initiative from Sport England aimed at encouraging more of them to get active.
The Sportivate programme will see nearly £1million invested in the two counties over the next four years. Introduced by Sport England and funded by the National Lottery, it will give 14 to 25-year-olds the chance to receive six to eight weeks of coaching in a sport of their choice.
Devon and Cornwall joined forces to launch the new initiative at a free watersports taster day in glorious weather at Roadford Lake, not far from the border between the two counties.
Students from Okehampton College and Launceston College were among more than one hundred youngsters who tried their hands at sailing and windsurfing with qualified instructors at various South West Lakes Trust sites.
Gig rowing and kayaking were also on offer at similar come-and-try-it sessions at Tamar Lakes near Bude, Siblyback near Liskeard, Stithians near Redruth and at Wimbleball on the edge of Exmoor.
Exeter University student Izzy Hamilton from Bude, who is a double world youth windsurfing champion, passed on some tips to the novice sailors at Roadford and was full of praise for the Sportivate initiative.
"It's a great project. Getting more young people active and involved in sport is always going to be a good thing. You can make new friends, get involved in something you can enjoy and potentially do well in, get new skills and lead a healthy lifestyle. It's all really important," she said.
And the youngsters who took part in the Roadford sessions are keen to take up the opportunities offered by Sportivate.
Glenn Coles, 17, from Launceston College, is hoping to sign up for a six-week sailing course.
"It was good to do something I've never done before. It's not part of something we do in school so it was good to come here and have a go. It was quite hard to get into it at first and we capsized quite a few times but once we got into it, doing all the turns and stuff, it was great and I definitely want to do it again" he said.
Amanda Lawrence, 17, from Okehampton College, is also hooked after her first try at windsurfing.
"It was amazing, I actually really loved it and I'm definitely going to do it again. People think it's really hard so they might not want to try it. When I first thought about coming, I was a bit scared but it's quite easy and we had a great time," she said.
As part of the Places People Play mass participation legacy programme, Sportivate will see 300,000 teenagers and young adults across England completing sports courses over four years with £32 million of Lottery funding aimed at getting those who aren't currently playing sport in their own time to get out and give sport a go.
Active Devon and the Cornwall Sports Partnership will be delivering Sportivate in the far South West. Between them they aim to get at least 9,000 local people involved in a wide and varied range of activities. They will work with local providers and sports clubs to help 14 to 25-year-olds in the two counties to continue playing sport long after they have completed their initial six to eight week courses.
Matt Evans, Head of Development for Active Devon, said: " I think this is really important for Devon. The 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games are a once in a lifetime opportunity in this country. The profile of sport will be absolutely incredible and I think this programme really helps us build on that and ensure there is a long-lasting legacy from the Games."
Tim Marrion, Partnership Services manager for the Cornwall Sports Partnership, said: "To get this investment into Cornwall is huge because we have massive rural barriers to participation. Having this kind of investment means we can break down some of those barriers, whether it may be travel or access to facilities, and make sure we can deliver what we call 'doorstep sport' giving young people the opportunity to become more active."
Jeremy Lemarchand, Sport England's Sportivate lead officer for the South West, was at the Roadford event .
"It's really important to give young people a flavour of what sport is about and that's what this programme is all about. It's about getting those who may not be doing a lot of sport right now into a setting and an environment like this - and a perfect day like this is also a bonus - to try out sport for the first time, find out they like it and take part for six to eight weeks with the real intention of keeping them in sport for a long time to come."
Tim Coventry is Sport England's South West Regional Sporting Champion. He project manages the ISAF Connect to Sailing project, focussed on reversing the decline in participation in sailing on a worldwide basis.
He is a member of the Royal Yachting Association Sport Development Committee and is a lifetime competitive sailor in dinghy, catamaran and sport boat classes. So he was particularly delighted to see Sportivate launched in the South West with watersports opportunities.
"The future of our sport is young people and we've had a lot of programmes in schools and those sort of areas which have given kids a taste for sport activity. Now what we're doing is focussing on the next step for those in their last few years of school and then going on to adult education and into the beginnings of their careers and if we don't keep in touch with that group we'll lose them. They'll develop other interests and disappear to the sport so keeping those people in contact with a sports community where they can make friends, they can develop their relationships as they grow older is hugely important to the sporting scene."
As an additional incentive, teenagers and young adults who stick with sport will have the chance to enter a ballot for free London 2012 tickets. Sport England has hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic tickets available for Sportivate participants via the London 2012 Ticketshare initiative.
In order to be eligible for London 2012 Ticketshare, participants will need to complete the sports course, missing no more than one session, and then continue to participate in sport for at least three months.
Sportivate is an inclusive programme that will create opportunities for disabled and non-disabled participants.