May 30, 2023

Play Their Way campaign launches to prioritise sport for children | Children

A campaign to prioritise children’s enjoyment of sport has launched, with experts saying that the method could lead to more Olympic medals for Team GB.

Play Their Way, a campaign launched by the Children’s Coaching Collaborative and funded by Sport England and the National Lottery, aims at putting children’s enjoyment at the heart of all sport and physical activity. According to the campaign, a child-first approach to coaching is about championing the playful and fun approach to sport, and encouraging all children to have the best possible experience in sport. This approach would lead to more children staying in sport throughout their lives, and could eventually lead to more success for the UK within competitive sports.

The campaign, which will work with 2.6 million coaches across England, has launched after a survey by Sport England found fewer than half (47%) of children regularly exercise.

Heather Douglas, head of coaching and policy at UK Coaching, said: “The Play Their Way campaign has been in our minds for around two years, and came together based on some research done by Sport England on the activity levels of children that weren’t that great.

“So we looked at that evidence and thought: ‘How can we bring the enjoyment and fun back to physical activity to young people?’ because that’s what they cite as the biggest motivator for them.”

Phil Smith, the executive director for partnerships at Sport England, said coaching from a child-first perspective could lead to more sporting success on a competitive level. He added: “It’s not necessarily different from most forms of coaching. But Play Their Way is just reminding coaches that the single biggest driver of participation is fun. And coaches have got a lot to remember, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to keep it fun and to keep in enjoyable.

“It’s a child-centered approach to coaching, which means giving them a voice and a brilliant experience, which is why they will stay in the sport.

“If you give kids a good experience, more kids would play. I am also certain that if kids are not playing, they couldn’t win anything, let alone an Olympic medal. So our prime objective is to keep kids involved in physical and mental activity.

Kye Whyte, a BMX racer who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, said a child-focused approach to sport was something he had experienced from a young age, and had aided him on his journey to the Games.

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He said: “As a club, we’ve done that anyways, and now Play Their Way has come in to push that even more, which is even better, by getting the kids listened to more and having them know what training they need to do to be better. Even to this day I have the same philosophy compared to when I was five years old.”

CK Flash, the head coach at Peckham BMX, where the campaign was launched, said: “Here at Peckham BMX we’re listening to what young people want. Our coaches let our kids train without them knowing that they’re being trained.

“Our ethos at Peckham has always been centred on supporting and mentoring young people in our local community, listening to them and understanding their needs. This is so important to helping them stay in sport and physical activity and gain the benefits that brings in other areas of their lives and which improve their life chances.”