Belfast Telegraph

Sported gives massive boost to future stars

By Ali Gordon

London 2012 has left an incredible legacy in Northern Ireland, thanks to Sported. The organisation has improved the lives of disadvantaged young people across the province by supporting inspirational groups that deliver sport for development.

"We work to promote good relationships and community development through working with young people, with a real focus on social change," said Sported Northern Ireland's regional manager, Brenda Kelly.

Sported has helped 225 groups by sourcing funding and providing support for community groups to help combat issues such as anti-social behaviour and suicide. Each community group is assigned a volunteer mentor to assist them along the way.

"We address the key problems within each group and then match them up with the best-suited mentor for them. They're all well established and they are with each group for around six months, visiting them every three weeks or so.

"It's quite a long period of time so that helps to make it a more sustainable experience," said Kelly.

One success story has been boxing club founder Michael McTeer tackling the tragic issue of suicide. Youth suicide in Newcastle has become a huge problem but Sported worked alongside Murlough Boxing Club to launch the 'Everyone is Equal' project, developed by McTeer, to promote positive mental health and suicide awareness.

Sported volunteer mentor James Laverty worked closely with Murlough to obtain a £5,810 grant to cover their rent and running costs, and evolve McTeer's idea into something for the community.

Meeting with their Sported mentor once every three weeks, over a period of six months, Murlough Boxing Club learned how to create business plans and apply for grants to ensure a more promising future.

"We have had young people first walk through our doors that were very quiet, had no confidence and low self-esteem. Through coming here, they have become far more outgoing, made real friendships, met girlfriends and are not afraid to admit it is boxing that has helped them," said head coach McTeer.

"'Everyone is Equal' was developed to show how the sport of boxing is a great way of building camaraderie, stopping bullying and building confidence. The kids that come here are fantastic; you couldn't meet a better bunch.

"We want to involve the whole community, the young people that come through the doors – it's their gym," he added.

Working with a range of groups from Ballymoor Football Club, who plan to use their Mini Blitz Tournament to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, to Holywood's Recon Community Group, who are standing up to drugs and alcohol abuse by providing football as a diversionary activity, the organisation is always looking for new membership and volunteers.

"We want to facilitate sport for development and social change by improving the way that the group runs itself. It's a great opportunity for groups and organisations in Northern Ireland and it really benefits both the groups and the mentors," added Kelly.

"I hope that the number of members continue to grow and we can develop the volunteer mentor teams to support the groups that need them.

"We are trying to develop a voice for this sector and help people understand its value," she added.

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