In July, we ran our first ever Sports Day at Kings College in Guildford. Local sports clubs and coaches came together with local displaced young people and the Big Leaf team to play cricket, basketball, rugby and football.
Our aim was to introduce the young people we support to sports they might not have played before, give them the chance to meet new people, make friends and have some fun playing team sports they were already familiar with.
Sport is an important part of our provision. It represents a common language, where words are not as important as the action on the field and where there is a sense of mutual understanding and respect between players. We have seen first-hand the positive impact sport has on mental wellbeing, helping young people develop coping mechanisms for trauma.
Sport is also an important part of the lives of the young people we support. It can be a source of escapism and fun. Football is always popular and we provide sessions across East and West Surrey. But we wanted to expand our sports provision and make sure we were offering something for everyone. So Ben, our Sports Programme Manager, organised a Sports Day to give young people the chance to try different sports in a safe and supported environment.
As with all of our projects, community partnership was at the heart of it. Hosting a day where young people new to the UK could play alongside local teams and coaches meant we could build community engagement, help young people feel comfortable accessing local sports programmes and create trust in the place we all live.
We were extremely lucky to partner with Guildford United, Chobham Chargers, Twenty20 Community Cricket and Surrey Scorchers to offer football, rugby, cricket and basketball.
The morning was dedicated to cricket and rugby. We have some keen cricketers in the group but many have never played. And rugby was new for everyone.
Darren, from Twenty20 Community Cricket Club, taught us the basics of cricket while Mike, from Chobham Chargers, led us in a match of tag rugby. There was so much enthusiasm on the pitch and a lot of preconceptions changed:
“I thought cricket was boring and now I want to play." H
With 12 languages on the pitch, the tag rugby matches were chaotic in the best possible way. There were many moments of hilarity, and it was great to see how wholeheartedly the young people approached the games.
“The mood of the day - big smiles all round with lots of talent on display. The guys were without exception an absolute delight to coach. I would love to run more Rugby sessions and maybe even form a competitive team!” Mike, Chobham Chargers “This rugby, is a good thing. I want to play. Is fun” A
In the afternoon, we focused on football and basketball. Many of our young people are keen and skilled football players and led by Colin at Guildford United, we had two close matches that both ended with tense penalty shootouts. We also played a basketball guided by Surrey Scorchers and the young people loved it:
“This game is crazy, I like it so much.” H
We didn’t take ourselves too seriously and the emphasis of Sports Day was on having fun and being together. Everyone who came along participated in all of the activities. And during the award ceremony, we presented medals for entertaining teammates and taking part, as well as for being the best newcomer to a sport.
It was a brilliant and we’re grateful to all our partners, volunteers and friends for supporting us.
"Today was for me my best day in UK." M
Activities that foster this type of community engagement are so important. They build lasting relationships that help displaced young people feel included and welcomed in their local community and we look forward to hosting many more.
“I want to thank you for everything you did for us playing different sports. It was amazing, thank you so much.” A
With huge thanks to all our partners; Kings College Guildford for the use of their facilities, Twenty20 Community Cricket, Chobham Chargers Rugby Club, Guildford United and Surrey Scorchers Basketball Foundation for their time and expertise; the Coop Guildford and Shah Jahan Mosque for their generous donations of food to keep us going through the day; and the key workers and social workers for supporting their young people to attend.
But as ever, the biggest thank you goes to the participants themselves, for turning up with so much enthusiasm, energy and open mindedness, for their sportsmanship and for all the moments of hilarity.