Darren Campbell, Youth Sport Trust School Sport Ambassador, discusses why the Sainsbury’s UK School Games will provide talented young athletes with a taste of competing at an elite level event.
For many of the young athletes competing at this year’s Sainsbury’s UK School Games the event will play a crucial part in their journey as they aspire to compete at an elite level.
Every competition on the path to a Commonwealth or Paralympic Games provides not only an opportunity to contest a title, but also the chance to learn more about yourself as an athlete and how you deal with a wide range of situations. The more exposure you have as an up and coming athlete, the better prepared you are to deal with whatever challenges come your way as you progress.
A multi-sport event for the UK’s elite young athletes of school age, the Sainsbury’s UK School Games, which this year take place across venues across Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland, sees competitions combined into a four-day Games environment designed to replicate the feel of a major event such as the Commonwealth or Paralympic Games.
Delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, the Games will see around 1,600 young people compete across ten sports; athletics, badminton, fencing, gymnastics, hockey, judo, road cycling, swimming, table tennis and volleyball, with an integrated programme of disability events [physical and learning disabilities] in athletics, swimming and table tennis.
Having worked with the Youth Sport Trust over the last few years I have seen first-hand how they are providing young people with a wide range of competitive sporting opportunities. Sainsbury’s UK School Games is the organisation’s pinnacle event for talented, school aged athletes in the UK and demonstrates how they are working to improve the quantity and quality of PE in schools.
As in previous years, I will look on with great admiration at those competing because the event provides a fantastic opportunity for these young athletes to experience what it is like to compete amongst a backdrop of sporting diversity and excellence.
The Games is an event packed with all the elements that make up a major competition with opening and closing ceremonies, an athletes village and a Culture and Education Programme, giving competitors the chance to really experience what it is to take part in a multi-sport event.
From managing their own schedules to making sure they go to the right venue, eating the right things to keeping focused on their own goals, there will be plenty to distract the young athletes – just as there is at a Commonwealth or Paralympic Games. That is why the Sainsbury’s UK School Games are so valuable; providing athletes the perfect opportunity to focus, remaining true to themselves and their goals despite what is going on around them.
This year the Culture and Education Programme provides competitors with experiences designed to challenge and inspire them whilst at the event, and includes support from UK Anti-Doping. Experts will be on hand to educate the young UK athletes about the dangers of drug use and inform them about the responsibilities of an elite athlete when it comes to anti-doping, these young people are being given the best possible education to make the right choices at every stage of their career
But the Games isn’t just for the competitors. With 400 young volunteers – 20 of whom come from overseas countries involved in the Youth Sport Trust-supported International Inspiration – the event demonstrates how sport can provide opportunities for everyone and can help young people develop key life skills.
For some, the Sainsbury’s UK School Games will go exactly to plan, others may come across stumbling blocks. But whatever their results, they will all have learned a huge amount from the four days, and those that are hungry to put these lessons into practice next time out will take themselves a step closer to their goals.