Lidl Northern Ireland has selected 25 secondary schools across the region to each benefit from a dedicated Mental Health Athlete Mentorship programme and receive £1,000 of new sports equipment as part of the retailer’s established Sport for Good initiative.
With 45% of young people in Northern Ireland saying their mental health has worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic*, the Lidl Northern Ireland Sport for Good Schools Programme is focused on teaching students about the long-term physical and mental health benefits of sports participation.
Delivered in partnership with Youth Sport Trust, the UK’s leading sports charity supporting young people’s education and development through sport, the Sport for Good Schools Programme is set to reach thousands of secondary school pupils right across the region over the coming years.
Specially trained athlete mentors will run workshops and take sessions with the students that will help increase their confidence and resilience while also providing them with tools to help manage their own mental health into adulthood.
A stellar line up of eight leading local athletes will deliver the schools programme, including four-time Paralympic athletics champion Michael McKillop and Olympian steeplechase gold medallist Kerry O’Flaherty, Olympian hockey heroes Shirley McCay and Eugene Magee, Northern Ireland netball international and an Armagh ladies' Gaelic footballer Caroline O’Hanlon, female rugby union champion and Olympian Ashleigh Baxter, Ulster Rugby midfielder and Jiu Jitsu champion Stacey Sloan and Commonwealth Shooting Champion Kirsty Hegarty.
Representing a strong cross section of sport and boasting an impressive array of achievements, each athlete is at the top of their game and will bring a wealth of experience to the classroom.
This week, the retailer announced 25 winning schools - hailing from every county across the region – who were selected for the programme following a call out for competition entries in October last year and were nominated by local shoppers.
Established in 2019, Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good programme has supported more than 80 sports clubs and schools across Northern Ireland and provided more than £220,000 in funding to encourage more young people into sport.
“The pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the mental health of our young people and this year we aim to tackle mental health head on through Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good initiative,” said Gordon Cruikshanks, head of sales operations for Lidl Northern Ireland.
“As a retailer committed to supporting local communities, we’re thrilled to partner with Youth Sport Trust to deliver a bespoke programme designed specifically for secondary school pupils to provide practical advice and techniques to improve mental health through sport.
“I’d like to thank all of our fantastic shoppers who nominated their local school to win a coveted place on the programme and congratulate those selected. We’re looking forward to this initiative rolling out over the coming months.”
The programme is supported by three local sporting heroes and long-standing Sport for Good Ambassadors - six-time Paralympic gold medallist swimmer Bethany Firth OBE, Olympic gymnast Rhys McClenaghan and Olympic runner Ciara Mageean.
Firth said: “As a Paralympian, I’m faced with challenges every day and I know only too well how important it is to have a strong, healthy mindset. Thanks to my incredibly supportive coach, family and team, I’ve been driven to achieve my best Olympic performance yet and also receive an OBE for my services to sport in the last six months – something I once could only dream of.
“With many young people saying their mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, the Lidl Northern Ireland Mental Health Mentorship schools programme couldn’t come at a better time and I’m honoured to help deliver this important initiative to schools across Northern Ireland.
“I’m very proud to support Lidl Northern Ireland’s Sport for Good campaign for the third year running and I hope that I can help inspire young people who may be struggling with their mental health to embrace the benefits of sport and the role it can play in improving mental wellbeing and in building resilience and confidence.”
The Sport for Good programme is the latest initiative by Lidl Northern Ireland to support communities across Northern Ireland and forms part of the retailer’s longstanding ‘Community Works’ programme.
First launched in 2014, the Community Works programme has engaged more than 750 local community groups to date and raised more than £600,000 for charity partner NSPCC Northern Ireland.
For more information, please visit lidl-ni.co.uk/lidl-community-works
*Source: 2021 Prince's Trust Tesco Youth Index