Primary school pupils from across Aberdeen put their sporting prowess to the test this week at the culmination of a unique sports and health project for children in the Granite City.
A total of 1,226 primary school pupils from 42 schools converged on Aberdeen Sports Village on Friday, May 20 as the Aberdeen Youth Games culminated in its annual Festival of Sport.
Launched by Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Sport and Exercise Science team and Sport Aberdeen in 2013, the Aberdeen Youth Games is an innovative and multi award-winning programme which promotes physical activity, health and wellbeing amongst young people in Aberdeen.
A Legacy 2014 programme, the initiative is supported by North East Scotland College and has also received funding from The Wood Foundation and First Bus, and involves sports coaching and healthy living advice for pupils.
Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust (AFCCT) supported the Aberdeen Youth Games this year and ran sessions at the festival, as did the RGU-based Streetsport which works in communities across the city.
At the festival pupils participated in a number of skills-based sporting activities, using the skills they’ve learned after in-school coaching from RGU and North East Scotland College students this term in basketball, tennis and rugby.
Aberdeen rowing star, and RGU Sport Scholar, Lewis McCue has signed up as the latest ambassador for the project, joining Dr Katherine Grainger CBE, Sir Ian Wood CBE, Scotland footballer Rachel Corsie, Olympic snowboarder Ben Kilner, and former Scotland hockey captain Leigh Fawcett Lewis (21), who worked on the project as an Applied Sport and Exercise Science student at RGU, was at the Festival of Sport alongside Sir Ian Wood, Leigh and Ben to cheer on the pupils.
He said: “The Aberdeen Youth Games is a fantastic project to encourage primary school pupils to enjoy new sports they may not have tried before. It’s great to be an ambassador for the programme which is going from strength to strength each year.
“In my second year at RGU I was involved with delivering sport coaching to pupils in schools as part of the programme which was a very rewarding experience.”
Lewis, who won a silver medal at Under 23 World Rowing Championships last year is aiming for gold in 2016, urged pupils to love their sport and reap the rewards of training and hard work.
He said: “My one aim this summer is to win Gold at the U23 World championships in August. I have a two month period of intense training planned with my crew and I’m looking forward to this great opportunity to produce some strong results.
“My advice to school pupils would be to enjoy training and really love what you’re doing. Never let anyone tell you that you won’t achieve something, get your head down and work hard until you get where you want to be.
“Taking part in high performance sport has also made me focus on my studies more and made me more time efficient so there are other benefits to enjoy too.”
Each pupil who participated in the festival received a special commemorative medal which was designed by P6 Mile End School pupil Tom Robertson (10). The medal was refined at Gray’s School of Art and mass produced at MAKE Aberdeen.
In 2015, The Wood Foundation committed a further £50,000 to the Aberdeen Youth Games over the next five years following an initial £10,000 award to support the scheme.
Earlier this year First Bus committed to provide £8,250 over the next three years to reduce the cost of transportation for schools to and from the festival.
Bryan McCann, lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at RGU, leads the Aberdeen Youth Games project. He said: “The Aberdeen Youth Games is a very popular programme for school pupils in city and we’re pleased with how it has developed over the last few years.
“We’re very grateful for the support we receive from The Wood Foundation and First Bus which makes it all possible and has helped the Festival of Sport become an established part of the city’s sporting and cultural identity.
“A lot of work goes in to the programme and we hope it will inspire the pupils to take up a sport and lead healthier, active lives in the future.”
As part of the build-up to this year’s Festival of Sport, 31 second year BSc (Hons) Applied Sport and Exercise Science students from RGU have been coaching pupils in basketball, tennis and rugby alongside colleagues from Sport Aberdeen Active Schools.
Students from other courses at RGU have been involved in delivering other projects, from courses including PR & Media, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
The Aberdeen Youth Games aims to encourage young people to lead healthy, active lives. This has been achieved as part of student work placements through Sport Aberdeen this semester, where they have worked alongside 45 students from North East Scotland College, strengthening articulation links between the organisations.
Graeme Dale, Development Manager (Active Schools) at Sport Aberdeen, said: “It is great to see so many boys and girls enjoying themselves participating in sport. We’ve developed the programme over the years and have been able to involve even more schools each year, increasing its scope.
“There will be a number of pupils who have never tried the sports on offer this year and it’s great to see how quickly they have learned new skills and enjoyed the festival.
“We’ll be working hard to continue the momentum that the Youth Games generates to get as many children as possible to keep participating in the sports they have taken part in today.”