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Young people: the Minister for Sport wants to hear from you

- Young people to have their say in Government sport policy for the first time

- Sports Minister Jack Chambers holds engagements with secondary school students on their involvement in sport and physical activity

Young sports people want greater access to sports facilities, opportunities to play in less competitive environments and more female role models so young girls can continue to participate.

These views were expressed at a Youth Forum event hosted by the Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers, T.D. The event is part of a new initiative to engage and hear the views and concerns of young people participating in sport in Ireland.

The Forum is the first time young people have had such an active input into the development of Government sports policy in this way and further engagements are planned in the future.

Minister Chambers met with members of the FAI Transition Year course based in Corduff in Dublin and Swim Ireland students from Galway Swimming Club and Shark Swimming Club on Thursday (04.03.21) in an online forum.

Minster Chambers discussed a range of issues and posed questions to our young sports stars like: why do you participate in sport? Why do you think young people might drop out of participating in sport? What should the government do better to make sure young people continue to take part in sport and enjoy physical activity?

The students told the Minister and sport officials the reasons why some people their own age are not taking part in sport and the actions they believe should be taken to encourage participation.

These proposals included improving access to facilities, the need to have role models to encourage young women to continue to participate, the provision of opportunities to participate at less competitive levels and having a broader variety of different sports.

While this long-term goal of improving participation was the primary focus of the discussion, students also took the opportunity to inform the Minister of their own experiences of the effect that the pandemic and the public health restrictions have had on sporting activity over the past year.

The Minister outlined that while the current public health restrictions remain in place until April 5th, any staggered easing of restrictions will be focused on outdoor activities and sport after that if the public health indicators improve.

The students took part under the guidance of Denis Hyland, Course Coordinator, FAI Transition Year course, and Kate Hills, Head of Safeguarding, Ethics and Youth Development & National Children’s Officer for Swim Ireland.

Minister Chambers said after the event:“Firstly I would like to thank both Denis and Kate, from the FAI and Swim Ireland, for recruiting students to take part in the first event of this kind. They provided an important overview of the great work that is being done in both organisations in getting young people active.

“I have been keenly aware of the need for young people to have a voice in issues affecting their lives and in how they can access and participate in sport in particular. We need to improve the ways in which they are consulted by government on the issues that affect them. Over the course of the afternoon we had a really positive discussion on the reasons they enjoy sport, the challenges they and their friends face in keeping active and the reasons they feel so many young people drop out as they grow up.

“They were able to give powerful insights on the challenges and obstacles they think impede young people taking part. It is clear that increasing access to sports facilities is a big issue as well as creating less competitive sporting environments where young people can play sports in less competitive, and pressurised settings. The students from Galway Swimming Club and Shark Swimming Club outlined very clearly the importance of having female role models.”

He added: “They were also able to express first-hand how they and their friends have been impacted by the restrictions on sporting activities over the last year. Their feelings of frustration and anxiety are completely understandable.

“The inputs, insights and ideas on the participation numbers which were provided are very helpful for my Department and Sport Ireland in developing policy and programmes to increase sport and physical activity levels among young people. I intend for this to be the first of a series of engagements with young people on this important issue in the months ahead.”