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UK Coaching Team
Young people Organising and Planning Employer or Deployer

StreetGames Programme Opens Doors for Disadvantaged Youth

We shine the spotlight on the pioneering Doorstep Sport Club Programme. StreetGames Strategic Lead James Gregory tells Blake Richardson how the charity attracts 14-25 year olds into sport by supporting a network of community organisations to provide informal sports and physical activity opportunities delivered ‘at the right time, in the right place, in the right style, at the right price, by the right leader’

When it comes to hitting goals, StreetGames’ four-year Doorstep Sport Club Programme (DSCP) has a strike-rate every bit as extraordinary as Lionel Messi’s or Cristiano Ronaldo’s.

It has been a genuine goal machine in terms of achieving targets and racking up enviable statistics. And while Messi and Ronaldo’s combined worth may stretch into hundreds of millions, the value of the Doorstep Sport project – in respect of its social return on investment and community contribution – is just as immense.

Some of the headline figures include:

  • 102,278 participants engaged
  • 17,953 volunteers and coaches trained
  • 1,821,043 attendances at DSC sessions
  • 1,000 DSC clubs
  • 1,401 training courses
  • 41 different sports or activities delivered.

The Doorstep Sport story began in 2013, when Sport England invested £20million into a programme designed to provide opportunities for young people from areas of high deprivation who were not members of sports clubs to lead more active lifestyles.

It was the largest ever targeted investment into disadvantaged youth sport.

Bywords for the project were empowerment, partnerships, creativity, equity and social inclusion.

The mission was to deliver greater accessibility for young people by bringing opportunities for sport and physical activity to the very doorstep of those 14 to 25-year-olds living in the 20% most deprived areas of the country.

The community-based projects would have a simple objective: to engage local young people on their doorstep with informal sport and physical activity to encourage and increase regular participation in sport.

That also meant providing opportunities for them to volunteer and access sports qualifications and, ultimately, produce qualified sports coaches who could support their own doorstep sessions, thereby delivering long term sustainability.

The ‘five rights’ motto

James Gregory is StreetGames’ Strategic Lead for London and the South East.

He describes StreetGames as a mud-roots organisation, operating one step below the individually affiliated grass-roots clubs.

For many young people from deprived areas, they need to have a positive experience of sport, delivered direct to their doorstep, before they can contemplate the prospect of joining a club, says James.

The key line is that Doorstep Sport is informal sport put on at the right time, in the right place, in the right style, at the right price, by the right leader.

This is in response to what young people told us they wanted in order to get more active.”

Research shows that low-income households are most likely to have the least active children, and that many of these youngsters prefer more social sessions than ones with a competitive focus. 

It is vital, then, that this physically and emotionally hard to reach demographic are given a varied and vibrant offer to maximise the chances of them finding a sport or physical activity they have a close affinity with.

Popular sports delivered include table tennis, basketball, football and boxing. Among girls, Zumba, street dance, yoga and boxing fitness training are in demand.

What all the activities have in common is that they require little commitment, meaning participants can dip in and dip out to suit their lifestyles.

This approach means young people don’t need to visit a leisure centre, or a 3G pitch, or stay after school on site to take part in sport; it can be where they are already hanging out, on what they might regard as their own patch,” says James.

“They can have a go and find the sport they love. This whole multi-sport approach is key to our Doorstep Sport ethos.”


Equal opportunities strategy

Providing opportunities so participants can go on to volunteer, build up their skills, knowledge and confidence and then become coaches and activators is a core value of StreetGames.

Doing that will guarantee more young people end up participating more regularly in sport – and, crucially, form a longstanding relationship with physical activity.

“The reason StreetGames was established was too many young people didn’t see sport as an option for them, so they were dropping out, especially at the age of around 14,” says James. “They thought sport was something they did at school, when perhaps they didn’t really have much fun doing it.

Our aim is to make sure those people from disadvantaged communities have as many equal opportunities of taking part in quality sport sessions as their more affluent peers.”

An insight-led charity, StreetGames is responding to the results of Sport England’s Active People Survey that has yielded the following facts:

  • if you are from a disadvantaged background the statistics show you are half as likely to take part in sport
  • you are half as likely to attend a club
  • you are half as likely to be coached
  • you are half as likely to become a volunteer or become a coach.

And yet the demand is there.

Young people from underprivileged areas want to be physically active just as much as their more affluent peers do.

StreetGames was formed to try and bridge the opportunity chasm which exists between the haves and the have-nots.

Insight-led and youth-led

DSC projects are youth led and involve regular consultations over what activities the target groups would like to try their hand at.

Crowbarring participants into playing traditional sports, with strict rules and lack of flexibility, is destined for failure.

“Young people we work with tell us they want it differently, so we have to change sport rather than force them to love the sport the way it is,” says James.

“Many non-sporty females, for example, tell us they want to take part in activity with their friends but not as a team, so we listen to them.

“We also have projects that specifically target certain groups, such as Fun Fitness Friends or Let’s Hear it for the Girls, where they go down that sort of “only girls allowed” branding in order to increase the sense of belonging.

But then you’ll get times when that approach isn’t right and where teenage girls want to come and hang out with the boys and get involved in the youth club vibe by having fun together. It really isn’t one size fits all, it depends on the group of people you are trying to engage with.”

Partnerships and collaboration

The progression pathway of participant, to volunteer, to coach – who can then coach back or volunteer back to help those living in their own community – works because the young people are on familiar territory… their home turf.

“It is so real, so natural,” says James. “Learners have relationships already with their peers and have a level of confidence, so they feel empowered to excel.”

And by sharing the same aims as national governing bodies (NGBs), Doorstep Sports Clubs are able to provide support for NGB policymakers on developing their young club participants through the different development phases, helping them deliver on their priorities.

“The NGBs are our partners,” explains James. “They play different roles depending on their ambitions for a particular target group.

“Some we work with will provide direct funding and resources to our network, in the shape of pop-up clubs that we have rolled out in recent years – such as pop-up girls football when it was the women’s World Cup – or testing new products with our Young Advisors designed towards playing sport differently.

“And we also work in partnership with NGBs on developing training workshops, to grow the workforce.”


Personal development plan

NGBs know that if they go to grass-roots clubs to target new people, then it is more often than not people who are already engaged in sport.

Working with StreetGames gives development managers and intervention programme leads access to a large network of their target audience: unengaged youth from disadvantaged communities.

Those individuals who choose to embark on training workshops are then able to interact with likeminded people they can relate to and feel comfortable around.

StreetGames offers NGB-affiliated Activator Workshops as the starting point for those participants keen to take their first steps on the development pathway.

Each learner will have their own development plan at their own speed, with a range of Accredited Qualifications available when they are ready to proceed to the first rung of the coaching ladder.

So, while sport is our hook, actually our projects and qualifications provide a lot more than just sport and physical activity, they include the personal development side of taking part in something, of belonging, of increasing self-esteem.”

StreetGames’ successful volunteering programme has achieved more than 8,000 qualifications and awards, while StreetGames Training Academy engaged with 6,025 learners last year alone.

“The fact that we go to the doorsteps of these projects to deliver these qualifications is another massive positive because we remove so many barriers (such as transport and getting there or staying somewhere overnight for a two or three-day course). People from our disadvantaged backgrounds can’t do that.”

The door has not closed

The DSCP may have run its four-year investment course, but this certainly isn’t the end for Doorstep Sport.

With 4.5 million young people living in poverty in disadvantaged areas, there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We have grown as a network and there are now nearly 900 organisations that StreetGames has supported to deliver Doorstep Sport,” says James.

“The Doorstep Sport ethos is now firmly embedded within those organisations, and increasingly we see it in organisations that we haven’t yet worked with directly.

“There is a large network outside of us that are delivering Doorstep Sport, even if they don’t call it that and are not getting support from us. And we want to help as many of those organisations as we can to ensure sport is accessible to young people, regardless of their social circumstances.”

James stresses that organisations should collectively work together to achieve their common set of objectives.

In a sector that is, by its very nature, competitive James wants to spread the message that collaboration and partnerships are key.

“We want to make sure that we share all the lessons that we’ve learned so it helps other people with their work. To save teams having to start from scratch, please do come make use of all our learning over the last four years. We don’t want it to go to waste.”

Related Resources

  • Sport England Ten-Year Strategy: From Great Adversity Comes Great Opportunity

  • The Coach Mate Connectors Programme

  • A Striking Partnership that is Breaking Down Barriers Through Football


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