Strabane Sigersons' youth coaches encouraging kids to 'Have a Ball' & keep active

Youth coaches from Strabane Sigersons GAA club are taking the lead on a new health & wellbeing programme which will see children aged 4-8 receive an introduction to exercise in a safe, fun environment thanks to a grant of £2,800 from the 'Change Something Fund'.

The 'Change Something' initiative – which recently awarded a total of £50,000 to 26 groups from across the Derry & Strabane District – is jointly funded by Council and The National Lottery Community Fund (formally Big Lottery Fund) as part of 'Youth 19' – a year dedicated to young people in the North West – and is being delivered by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland's Acorn Fund.

Throughout the 10-week 'Have a Ball' programme, the youth coaches aim to 'Change Something' in their local community by providing children with a fun introduction to physical exercise.

Youth coach Niambh Ní Fhoghlú, who is taking the lead on the new programme at Strabane Sigersons, said: "I'm delighted to be the lead project co-ordinator on the 'Have a Ball' programme – which includes advertising the programme, recruiting volunteers and participants, and planning and delivering the coaching sessions.

"It's also great to be using the power of gaelic football and sport in general to inspire young children locally.

"This programme will not only get the kids fit and active through a series of fun activities but will also educate them on the value of teamwork.

"The circuit-style arrangement of games will also ensure the children won't get bored as they don't spend any longer than a couple of minutes at any given activity.

"Each game will improve the child's fitness, agility, balance and co-ordination whilst at the same improving their ball kicking, handing, throwing and striking skills.

"The activities are also being led by a group of teenage coaches – who prior to the programme have been upskilled to at least a foundation level coaching award and they have received training on safeguarding children in sport. Indeed, this process has not only familiarised them with the best practises in coaching but has also enhanced their future employment prospects with local sporting organisations.

"The programme also has an important social inclusion aspect to it – in that the sessions are designed to support families to be more active together.

"It encourages parents to stay and play with their children and participate in the circuit-style games – thereby bringing families together while also increasing their physical fitness, health & wellbeing.

"However, parents that do not, or cannot participate in the circuit of games, can also take part in the walking group activities that operate around a 1km looped pathway of the Melvin Sports Complex.

"We're therefore delighted to have been awarded this grant from the 'Change Something Fund' – as securing funding for the new programme will make such a huge impact.

"Importantly, the inter-generational participation of young children, teenage coaches and parents alike will help build a greater sense of community spirit and improve relationships between these groups and the wider community.

"I therefore hope to see as many children as possible from Strabane and the surrounding area sign up for the 'Have a Ball' programme – which really is a great opportunity to have fun and keep fit.

"Indeed, at Strabane Sigersons we're always keen to welcome new children and young people – the more the merrier!"

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr John Boyle, said: "It has been great to visit Strabane Sigersons and see first-hand the benefits of this fantastic programme.

"The youth coaches in particular must be commended for taking the lead on this project and for actively promoting healthy living and social inclusion within their local area."

Julie Harrison, The National Lottery Community Fund NI Chair, added: "It is wonderful to see young people taking the lead in developing great ideas to help their communities thrive, as they know and understand what young people would like to see in the local area.

"Thanks to National Lottery players, we are proud to be able to support Strabane Sigersons so they can provide this fantastic new programme for young children to get active and learn new skills."

To sign up for the new 'Have a Ball' programme please contact Jason Foley, Youth Officer at Strabane Sigersons GAA on 07894056977 or email youth.strabanesigersonsgaa@gmail.com

For further information on the Change Something Fund visit www.derrystrabane.com/changesomething

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