Sportivate is helping drive participation in Babergh

Junior boxing at Sudbury Leisure Centre. ANL-140319-160603001

Junior boxing at Sudbury Leisure Centre. ANL-140319-160603001

The London Olympics was supposed to inspire a generation into participating in sport and hopefully help find those few rare gems that can go on to become sporting superstars, writes Ian Parker.

Whether this has happened, whether there really is more people playing sport on a weekly basis, is a matter that is being repeatedly debated with varying facts and figures.

South Suffolk Leisure, however, which runs the Kingfisher Sports Centre in Sudbury and Hadleigh Pool and Leisure Centre, is taking action as part of their aim to help Suffolk become the healthiest county in Britain.

This ambitious plan is part of a county-wide campaign and South Suffolk Leisure are using funding from a national scheme to help make it a reality.

Sportivate is a £56 million, Lottery-funded, London 2012 legacy project that gives more young people the chance to discover a sport.

Aimed at 11-25 year-olds, it particularly looks to support those who are not particularly sporty and allows sports clubs and classes to offer free or subsidised sessions.

Sudbury has had some of its own success stories, including the boxing class, which I went along to.

At the club I was surprised to find, perhaps because of long-standing stereotypes, that the majority of members were girls.

Equally unlike female stereotypes, there was no hanging around chatting and staring at phones.

Girls and boys alike, were instead focused on the drills set to them by their coach Phil Francis.

Having their friends around was not a distraction, rather a motivating factor, spurring them on to finish their circuit quicker, to put in one more press up.

It was great to see that both boys and girls were taking part in sporting activity to the best of their ability, keen to impress the coach they clearly looked up to.

Most of all, however, it was good to see throughout this they had a smile on their face.

Cowardly, I scampered off when the gloves came out.

I enjoy my sport, but being caught between sparring teenagers was something I was keen to avoid.

Throughout the warm-up drills, the kids had been working on their technique and I did not fancy being the victim of a well-refined right hook.

It isn’t just boxing that Sportivate and the leisure centres can offer.

Water polo is becoming an increasingly popular sport in Hadleigh, while the ‘Get Active’ fitness scheme in Sudbury is in high demand.

Here, for £25 a month, kids get access to the fitness suite and all of its exercise machines.

As part of this they can get 30 minutes personal training, which usually costs £25 an hour, along with nutritional advice.

John Scarff, quality manager at Sudbury, said: “Sportivate opens up the opportunity for the youngsters in the local community to engage in sport and realise it can be fun.

“It’s about encouraging them to lead healthier lifestyles — that’s our aim.”

Mr Scarff admitted it was a two-way benefit, with many participants continuing with their sports at full price or taking out gym memberships, after the programmes had finished.

“Given the diversity of the community, it is important to open up opportunities — the funding is a big part of that,” he said.

The programmes usually run for six weeks and there are currently plans for a series of triathlon style training sessions throughout April and June and a football 
club for those youngsters that do not play for a club, but would like the opportunity to train.

“For six weeks we have young people that gain real benefits from it,” said Mr Scarff. “Even if we only get half of them continuing then we have achieved our goals.

“They will walk away with some skills and discipline and will be a little bit healthier which hopefully they will continue.”

To find out more about the sports on offer visit




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