It’s been a year of significant change, major milestones and huge progress at Energize, the activity charity and county sports partnership for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.
The team, based at University Centre Shrewsbury, has helped dozens of potentially vulnerable people to change their lives using the power of sport and physical activity throughout 2017.
They have also set up a string of new activity opportunities, known as ‘satellite clubs’, targeted at helping young people in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the county.
But that’s not all. The team have connected with more than 130 schools though the School Games programme, which is going from strength to strength.
They have run training sessions, mentored local businesses, helped groups to secure crucial grant aid . . . not to mention having another two winners in the West Midlands Community Sports Awards.
Chris Child, chief executive of Energize, said: “We’ve certainly had an exciting year, working towards our new mission to improve local lives using the power of physical activity and sport.
“It has seen us working with new partners, embarking on exciting new projects, and using existing ones in different ways.”
These include the ‘More Than Sport’ initiative, funded by West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner, which uses sport and volunteering to help young people aged 13-24. The project flourished in 2017, with more than 50 individual referrals from partner agencies.
“The project has not only had a great impact on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the young people involved, but has also strengthened family relationships and supported young people to be life and job-ready,” said Nick Herbert, Energize’s More Than Sport officer.
Energize’s work is not just about young people, though. The team has also been funded by Shropshire Council’s Help2Change to develop gentle exercise classes which improve balance and ‘core stability’ in older people, helping to reduce the risk of trips and falls.
Laura Kerrigan, senior business manager, explained: “We are working with local providers to create a wider range of appealing activities that will help maintain fitness, but will also be social and enjoyable.
“An enthusiastic network of instructors are in training, and they are looking forward to starting the classes in the spring.”
Energize is closely involved in the Inclusively Fit project, and hosts Inclusion Officer Jessica Lightwood, funded by the Big Lottery.
She said: “Over the past year we have been piloting work with care homes, sheltered housing schemes and day services to create ‘active hubs’ within the community.
“This has involved training staff, giving them the confidence and skills to lead activities for their residents, along with incorporating a mentoring scheme to support the staff in their own environment. The number of organisations involved is now into double figures.”
The number of Shropshire-based satellite clubs, which help bridge the gap between school, college and community sport and provide new opportunities for to get active, has grown significantly in 2017.
Eight new clubs have been launched, reaching nearly 200 young people aged between 14 and 19.
Club development manager Joe Lockley said: “Five of these clubs have been set up in areas across the county where young people may face disadvantage and experience fewer opportunities.
“We are also using these clubs to help ex-offenders, or people recovering from substance misuse, and two of our clubs have been set up with school pastoral leads, for those at risk of offending in schools.”
The Energize Awards were given a facelift this year to reflect the organisation’s changing objectives, moving emphasis away from purely sport, towards more general physical activity-related categories.
Five category winners went through to the West Midlands Community Sports Awards final – and two won their regional titles.
Rachael Swinnerton, who started the Cheerforce Ten cheerleading academy in Telford from scratch six years ago, took the Coach of the Year award.
And Kathryn Stanworth, who has shed a life-changing 146lbs to become a boxing champion through the Bright Star Academy near Shifnal, came home with the Power of Sport Award.
Research shows a steady growth in the number of physically inactive workplaces – and Energize has been seeking to reverse this trend, working with more than 30 local businesses in 2017, with a collective staff base of 10,000.
“Statistics show that the average worker has 6.6 days off sick every year, costing hundreds of pounds in lost productivity,” said senior sports manager Ben Harper.
“By supporting the health and wellbeing of employees, studies show that staff perform better at work, are more motivated, have increased job satisfaction and are less likely to look for other jobs.
“The key message we’re trying to get across to businesses is if you’re not doing any activity, do something . . . or if you’re currently doing something, do a little more!”
One of December’s initiatives was the Active Advent challenge when, instead of opening a chocolate-filled calendar, Energize presented a daily series of challenges aimed at local companies. It became quite competitive on social media!
Energize’s popular School Games competition took on a different structure for the 2016-17 year, moving secondary school county finals around a host of different locations.
Youth sport manager Harry Cade said: “We saw a 12.5% rise in the number of teams taking part in these finals as a result of this restructure.”
Overall, nearly 1,500 secondary school students took part, while in the primary school competition there were over 1,350 pupils involved.
Harry said: “Overall, competitors from 137 different schools took part – and we must say a big thanks to the 385 volunteers and young leaders who helped to make the events such a success, and to Shropshire Homes for their continued financial support.”
As part of its role to support schools to use their Primary PE and School Sport premium funds, Energize delivered workshops to 53 governors and head teachers, from 38 schools.
The sessions were designed to help them consider how to develop their own practices to support their school in being more active.
Energize has also organised school swimming courses this year, and
organised the Primary PE and Sport Premium Awards in the county, won by Clee Hill Community Academy, and Oakmeadow CE Primary and Nursery School from Bayston Hill.
The awards recognised schools that innovated and endeavoured to provide improved outcomes for pupils using their Primary PE and School Sport Premium funding.
And on the subject of funding, Energize is also now helping organisations to write plans and provide information to support funding applications, in an affordable way.
Success stories include £5,000 for Dorrington Village Hall following the provision of detailed local data by Energize, and £10,000 for outdoor activity provider Climbing Out, through a bid which was written by the team.