How Health Mentors are driving sport participation through school competitions

The summer term symbolises an annual component for many primary schools across the country…Sports Day. The agenda for such an event varies in each school with some encouraging healthy competition between ‘houses’ or ‘teams’, whilst others are purely focused on the participation aspect.
The diverse nature of Sports Day reflects a long-standing argument for how sport should be delivered to this age group. Some parents, educators and organisations believe that primary school children should not be subjected to competition, stating that it could have an adverse effect on pupils who are not particularly prevalent in this area. The Football Association, for example, no longer publish scores or league tables for children of primary school age.
Yet the opposing argument is that there are overwhelming benefits for competitive sport at this level. A Headteacher in Lincolnshire explained, “for some pupils who are not as gifted academically as others, Sports Day and sporting competitions can be their chance to shine.”
Similarly, supporters in this area point to the social and emotional benefits, such as the importance of learning how to win and lose at an early stage. One parent I work with suggested, “life is about winning and losing. You may be successful in a job interview but you could also miss out – the earlier you learn how to deal with these emotions, the better you will be at responding to them.”
However, Evolve Health Mentors are striking a balance between exploring the positive effects of sports competition and driving participation in such environments. Whether it is through innovative PE lessons, structured interventions or inventive lunchtime animation ideas, Health Mentors are ensuring that pupils across the country are getting access to the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity during school time.
Extracurricular clubs provide further options to help pupils meet and exceed another 30 minutes they should be exploring outside of the standard school day. These clubs vary from football to dodgeball to multi-sports, with some open to the whole school and others propelled towards particular children who would profit from the physical and emotional benefits.
Some Health Mentors do not deliver specific after school clubs, instead taking pupils to various inter-school competitions. These are often not reserved for ‘gifted and talented’ pupils but utilised as a basis to increase participation figures and allow children to experience various tournaments, friendlies and new sports.
One Health Mentor based in Birmingham noted how one of the pupils he works with went “from never playing football in a team to getting into the National District Finals in a space of a year.”
A school in Lincolnshire explained, “our participation figures for pupils going to inter-school competitions this year is at 85%. This is a great achievement for us and our Health Mentor has played an important role, despite only being deployed with us two days per week.”
With the School Games Mark helping to shape how participation should look, it appears that more and more young people are being given the opportunity to experience inter and intra-school competitions.
Health Mentors are also playing an active role in developing Sports Days, an area known to be logistically challenging to organise. To allow every pupil the opportunity to participate and engage in the activities, one former Health Mentor, now a Regional Manager, developed a programme that included a carousel of activities to absorb the interest of pupils before fun races present a more competitive aspect. That concept has since been used continuously in three different schools for over five years despite a new member of staff being deployed.
If you would like to find out more about how our Health Mentors develop a positive physical activity culture in school environments, contact Josh Cronin on josh@evolvesi.com