Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave is on a mission to get children of all ages back to enjoying sport as part of their everyday life.
The five-time gold medallist treated pupils at Needham Market Middle School to a special guest appearance this week as part of the Matalan Sporting Promise in partnership with Youth Sport Trust to help support the delivery of sport in primary and secondary schools.
Redgrave, who competed in five separate Olympics from 1984 to 2000, was on hand to promote alternative sports such as tchoukball, dodgeball and rowing to children from the school, as well give an assembly about his great sporting history as he looks to change the attitude of importance given to sport.
“Getting children engaged into sport has become a major problem,” he said. “Really it shouldn’t have to be about engaging them back into sport, it should be part of our DNA but unfortunately it isn’t the case.
“I’ve been involved in the Matalan Sporting Promise for the last three years and it is a project that we have been wheeling out around the country and has been making a very big impact with more than two million children getting involved in the scheme.
“At primary school level it is about bringing in more guidance for the teachers in some respect because you only have two days of your teaching training dedicated to developing sport.
“As a result we have tried to break down main stream sports into smaller skill bases that allows people to develop their whole game skills without even realising it.
“That is not taking away from the amazing primary school teachers we have that go the extra mile, but it is great to be able to help as much as we can.”
The issue is evidently worse once children reach secondary school age with a change of attitude resulting in once active children shying away from sporting activity, a point not lost on Redgrave.
“The difference at secondary school is that children who would have a go at everything at primary school suddenly try their hardest to get out of things they’re not very good at, so there is something that happens in that change over period,” he added. “So what we do there is introduce different types of sport like dodgeball, lacrosse, jump-rope, tchoukball and street-dance which really helps engage particularly young girls who don’t take up any sport.
“My hope is that for those children then leaving school, those activities become part of their life.”