Why signing your child up to a sports community is one of the greatest gifts you can give
Taking part in sports and being part of a club provides children with a life-long support system; it promotes positive physical and mental benefits and leads to a healthy body and mind. In association with Lidl, we talk to three Northern Ireland club coaches who are putting a sense of purpose back into the lives of young people.
One in four young people struggle with their mental health in Northern Ireland. It’s a worrying statistic that has prompted grocery retailer Lidl to act.
To reward and sustain the hard work delivered by many sporting clubs around Northern Ireland Lidl launched its Community Works Sport For Good Programme back in 2014, an initiative that has seen it give hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment to 38 clubs across Northern Ireland.
Kevin Downey who, alongside boxing champ Conor Cooke, has been running Agoge Boxing Club in Antrim for just over a year, is one of those recipients. Agoge received a grant from Lidl this year, which Kevin says will encourage more youths to join up.
“We would have around 120 kids come through the doors for a number of classes,” he begins.
"We both want to try and help local Antrim people, whether that’s someone trying to get back on their feet, someone suffering with their mental health or a young person who just needs something to get them off the street,” he adds.
“Receiving the grant gets us as a club to the next step. As a non profit organisation it’s a challenge but we have invested in a new floor, weights and equipment and now it looks more like a gym and has brought more people through the door.”
The club also offers boxing lessons for youths and children on the ASD spectrum, which is a particular passion for Kevin who has a son with Autism.
“We want to give back to the community and help people do well and even go on and do well in boxing but our main goal is to help,” he says.
Clare Haughey who is head coach at and owner of Omagh Panthers Cheerleading looks after up to 200 club members ranging from two years old to 18 year olds, many of whom compete nationally.
Inclusion and integration is a big part of what Panthers does, which helps it create a home-from-home environment for everyone in the community.
“We are extremely proud of our little club which is growing steadily,” Clare begins.
“We feel the popularity of cheer, gymnastics and dance has increased dramatically and we are happy to say we offer all of these and more to our members. We are inclusive to all schools and ethnic groups locally and have integrated various events for our members, for local charities and community,” she adds.
Having operated since 2011, the club was delighted to receive support from Lidl which it has put to good use through the purchase of new safety mats, a trampette and learning aids and resources.
In Newcastle, Co. Down, Sam Clegg, head coach at Newcastle Tennis club, believes getting children active in a club and community environment is the right antidote to blue screen overexposure.
His club has been running for almost 50 years, serving all ages in the community.
He says: “Obviously with more and more iPad and blue screens around getting out to play sport is much more of a focus and it’s beneficial for both mental and physical health. I believe all kids should be out there taking part and socialising.
“We offer an accessible sport that also reaches out into the community through a primary school programme to spread the word to those who may have not have thought to take up the sport.”
Newcastle Tennis coaches over 150 young people from the ages of four-18 through camps and schools. It will put its £4,000 grant from Lidl towards racquets and balls.
“At a time when it is so difficult to self-fund, Lidl supporting local teams really helps bring clubs back to life and succeed in supporting the community.”
*Source: Mental Health Foundation’s Fundamental Facts for Northern Ireland, October 2016.
Find out more about the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme here