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When sport is fun, not competition

A CITY-WIDE initiative in Birmingham is helping to revive the notion that sport, even competitive sport, can be about co-operation, not confrontation. It is linking together young people in 20 of the city’s schools.

Birmingham Connect is run by the Youth Sport Trust, a children’s charity, in partnership with Commonwealth Games England. It is supported by Inspire Activity Ltd, Cultural Centre and Birmingham Education Partnership. Funding comes from Sport England and the Government’s Communities Innovation Fund.

What is different about Birmingham Connect’s approach is that it brings 11-13 years olds together to play sport. Rather than seeing sport as something where they must compete against their peers, the youngsters are encouraged to learn from another and work as teams – across the traditional community divisions and the hostilities more usually seen between young people from different areas of the city.

Ashaunti Mufchett, 13, explained that she used to think of students who did not go to her school as “the competition”. Now she sees them as friends.“What is different about Birmingham Connect,” she said, “is that we are learning through sport and not coming together to compete in like a netball tournament but to socialise and enjoy playing sport. We didn’t have the opportunity to mix before. It has made me feel like we have developed a friendship instead of wanting to beat one another. It has brought us closer together.”

Ashaunti has also seen personal benefits from her involvement in Birmingham Connect. “I have always been really sporty,” she explained, “When I’m active and doing sport that is my comfort zone, but being part of Birmingham Connect has made me more confident and helped me to develop my confidence to try new sports like boxing, yoga and gymnastics outside of what I would usually do. I’m now trying to find a boxing club nearby as I enjoyed it so much.”

School-based groups have been meeting regularly since Birmingham Connect began some five months ago. The youngsters have been able to try out various sports which are included in the Commonwealth Games – which will be coming to Birmingham in 2022. Teachers have confirmed that Birmingham Connect has been good for their students and report that they, too, have enjoyed meeting other teachers and collaborating with them.

If this is an example of the community benefits which have come from the Commonwealth Games, East London Councils will be wondering why they got so little from the Olympic Games.

•For more information about Birmingham Connect go to:
Birmingham Connect

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