Increased Participation and Engagement through Alternative Sports in Secondary Schools: Two case studies from the Youth Sport Trust ‘yoUR’ Activity Programme

By Susie Brown

Graduate Destinations Manager
Careers & Employability Centre
Loughborough University
Institute of Youth Sport, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

This is an extended version of a paper presented at the Leisure Studies Annual Conference held at the University of Salford, 2013.


Recent UK policy for sport and physical activity published in Game Plan and Playing to Win (DCMS, 2002, 2008), suggests that participation in sport and recreation can lead to improved health and reduced crime levels, generate employment, and encourage a more positive attitude to education. Since the Olympic Games the government has wanted to deliver a ‘sporting legacy’ and create a sporting habit for life (DCMS, 2012), following research that has shown that positive activity patterns in youth tend to continue into adulthood and therefore increase the likelihood of the adoption of lifelong healthy lifestyle practices (Jess & Collins, 2003). Sport and physical activity have long been cited as having the potential to help tackle ‘problems’ of youth obesity, antisocial behaviour and social exclusion (Coalter, 2007, p.116) in addition to the numerous physical, emotional and mental health issues exacerbated by the trend towards increasingly sedentary and inactive lifestyles.

The Active People Survey (Sport England 2006, 2007), revealed a specific trend towards alternative sports. Findings across Western Europe and North America show that alternative sports are “increasingly central to the physical activity and cultural lifestyles of young people” (Gilchrist and Wheaton, 2011: p. 110). In the United Kingdom, alternative sports have become so central to the physical activity and cultural lifestyles of young people that for some they have challenged and replaced traditional team sports (Griggs, 2012: p. 180). Research has identified particular benefits of alternative sports and this has led to their introduction within schools on a small but emerging scale (Ofsted 2009; Quick et al. 2009; Stidder and Binney 2011). Griggs (2012) states that empirical findings indicate that strong social bonds developed through a shared ethos common in alternative sports appear to create highly desirable environments for increased and sustained participation (Stebbins, 1992, Wheaton, 2007).

This paper seeks to illustrate some of the benefits of alternative sports and outlines a programme, designed to (re)engage those pupils not attracted to ‘traditional’ school sports by providing opportunities for them to participate in alternative activities. Furthermore, the programme provided the opportunity to train the young people to lead and run the activities consequently reducing the workload of physical education teaching staff, who are increasingly required to provide a broad practical curricular and extra-curricular programme as well as teach classroom based examination subjects in sports science. In order to illustrate this, an outline of the programme along with its aims and objectives is provided along with case study data from two schools involved in the research evaluation. The case studies include original quotes from young people; as Tomlinson (2005: p. 4) stated, “data collection with respect to lifestyle sports needs to focus on the participants” and furthermore, as Kay (2009: p. 1180) suggested, “the inclusion of individuals’ accounts of their sport experiences is, at the very least a legitimate and important component of the ‘impact’ of sport; …they are a voice without which such work is incomplete”. Finally, the case studies are summarised in order to highlight the increased participation and engagement in the two different schools.

Youth Sport Trust Your Activity Programme Overview

The Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme (shortened to yoUR Activity), was a new programme that promoted alternative sports in secondary schools. yoUR Activity was designed to inspire and motivate pupils not attracted to mainstream/traditional sporting activities and was consistent with a policy context where the coalition government was keen to create a sporting habit for life (DCMS 2012). This programme involved schools located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and targeted schools with high levels of Free School Meals[i] (FSM).

yoUR Activity provided schools with resources and support to create new initiatives in one or two of 12 non-traditional sports: Parkour, Ultimate Frisbee, Street Cheer, Dodge Ball, Skipping/Jump Rope, Orienteering, Tchoukball, Softball, Indoor Rowing, Racketball, Exercise Music and Dance (EMD) and Lacrosse. The YST worked closely with the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of these sports to tailor the offer to meet the needs of the schools and the young people. Through a process of identifying hub schools in each area, and encouraging these schools to disseminate information and support to partner schools, there was also an emphasis on establishing effective networks of programme provision.

The overall aim of the project was to increase and sustain participation in physical activity and sport for the least active young people in secondary schools through a modern and vibrant alternative sports programme. Some delivery was organised by young people for young people, with an emphasis on encouraging participants to adopt a healthier lifestyle and providing them with a stepping stone into lifelong participation. As such, the yoUR Activity programme can be seen to add to a growing number of initiatives that have sought to re-engage disaffected or disengaged young people through participation in targeted physical activities (e.g. Crabbe et al., 2006; Holt, 2008; Sandford et al., 2008; Armour & Sandford, 2012).

The key objectives of yoUR Activity were stated as being to: reach out and inspire all young people to increase physical activity levels, focusing on the least active; offer access to ‘alternative’ activities which complement existing secondary school curriculum and sport provision, to motivate and inspire greater participation; empower young people to make informed choices around the activities they participate in and ultimately the lifestyles they adopt as they move through to adulthood; reinforce important holistic health and wellbeing messages through the delivery of physical activity and sport.

Evaluation overview

The evaluation during 2012 (Year 1 of yoUR Activity) had the following overall aim: To identify the impact of the yoUR Activity programme and resource on the school sport offer in participating schools. In order to achieve this aim the evaluation focused on the following aspects of the programme:

  • the usefulness and usability of the yoUR Activity elements and the programme overall;
  • the outcomes of participation in yoUR Activity for young people, including young people’s engagement/ enjoyment and the impact of the programme on their attitudes towards, understanding of and continued participation in sport/physical activity/physical education;
  • the school outcomes resulting from delivery of yoUR Activity, focusing on the nature/breadth of provision, the use of young people to help drive delivery, the whole school impact and the development of relationships with local partners;
  • sustainability of the programme in schools, focusing on the perceived indicators of sustainability, factors influencing sustainability and examples of good practice;
  • unanticipated outcomes (positive or negative) of the programme and comment on the significance of these as appropriate, focusing on aspects of good practice and any implications for programme improvement/development.

The evaluation of Year 1 of the programme was conducted by the Institute of Youth Sport on behalf of the Youth Sport Trust and included the use of on-line surveys for deliverers and young leaders, case studies, telephone interviews with NGBs and a paper pupil survey.


This section presents the broad findings from the evaluation and examines the extent to which the programme was successful in achieving its aims. It then gives examples of two case studies which are compared in the discussion.

Interview and survey data indicate that those involved believe that yoUR Activity had a favourable impact on the young people that the programme was targeted at. The inclusion of the young leader element in the programme had been effective in most schools and had been instrumental in offering young leaders new and additional opportunities to develop their skills and confidence. Challenges for involving young leaders included releasing pupils from lessons in exam years and sustaining the involvement of leaders when schools only have pupils up to the age of 16. Schools involved in yoUR Activity were keen to continue their involvement in the programme although for many there were resource implications in being able to do so. Sustainability of young people’s active involvement in yoUR Activity sports appeared to be achieved in the main by the provision of after- and inter-school opportunities usually involving young leaders. Some schools included the alternative sports in their PE curriculum as a way of sustaining activity. Sustaining longer term involvement of the young people beyond school was a big challenge for the programme and one which remains a longer term aspiration.

The following two case studies were chosen by the author as they involved different sports, different types of young people and schools in different socio-economic areas and illustrate, “what sports work, for what subjects, in what conditions” (Coalter, 2007: p. 165).

Case Study 1 – School A


School A was a mixed academy for aged 11-16 year olds in the Yorkshire and Humberside region which had approximately 870 pupils on role. Almost all of the students in the academy were of White British heritage and very few had home languages other than English. The number of students with special educational needs and/or disabilities and the number of individuals eligible for free school meals were both well above the national average. School A became involved in yoUR Activity when a member of the school PE (Physical Education) staff attended the Youth Sport Trust training course. As alternative sports provision had been a particular interest of this member of staff, the workshop was seen as a good opportunity to get an initiative going. This individual became the lead practitioner at School A (the hub school) and was responsible for initiating and overseeing the involvement of partner schools. Additional support in the activity sessions was provided by school non-PE staff and local deliverers in each of the chosen sports (dodgeball and parkour). In addition, 12 young leaders were involved in supporting delivery within the hub school. For School A, the key aims for the programme were to help increase participation and engagement among those pupils typically disaffected with PE:

“We wanted to use dodgeball and parkour to increase participation and mainly for sort of disaffected people who weren’t engaged in PE currently”. (PE teacher)

Training and support

The lead practitioner from School A attended the two hour regional briefing and became the hub school deliverer. He felt that the training was comprehensive; commenting that it left him “more than prepared to deliver”. He described the yoUR Activity resource as helpful, particularly with regard to the activity plans on the CD-Rom, but felt that the real benefit of the workshop was the opportunity to meet and talk with other practitioners and activity instructors: “That’s the way I learn best really …the resources were a good add on …but the main ideas and seeds were planted with meeting and talking to other people on the course and the instructor”. Following the regional briefing, the lead practitioner led a workshop for PE teachers from local schools, in order to pass on information about the programme and facilitate development of yoUR Activity sessions in other schools. He also contacted the relevant NGBs and arranged for them to organise a leadership day for junior sports leaders for each of the chosen activities. The young leaders spoke positively about the NGB training courses, commenting that they were “quite good” and that they valued learning rules, techniques and tactical knowledge. Some also felt that it had been helpful to learn some games that could be played in sessions, while others appreciated being told how they could best teach others and lead sessions safely (“we spent a lot of time doing it, it was done to make sure that it was enjoyable so we knew what games we liked (and) tried them with other kids at the after school club”).

Structure of your Activity

The chosen activities at School A were dodgeball and parkour, as these were activities that were felt to be manageable but also attractive for the pupils. Moreover, some pupils who had experience of these activities had been trying for some time to get them included within the school curriculum and yoUR Activity was viewed as a good opportunity to achieve this.

We’ve got these blocks (buildings in the school) and we started doing it (parkour) there and our PE teacher, we got told off for it. He (the teacher) asked us if there’s any teams or anybody who could teach us in school and he’d look into it. We told him about the community parkour activity and the PE teacher did his homework about it and found that he could get them into the school. He asked the headteacher, and for about, three or four months, she kept saying, ‘no’, but we kept asking and asking and he nagged her and eventually she turned round and said, ‘yes, we’ll give it a test run’. We got some year 7’s and year 8’s (age 11-13) to help us as well, they wanted to do it because they’d seen us doing it, and they came along and it turned out to be really well done, everyone enjoyed it, there was no accidents because there rarely ever is, it looks like there should be but there actually isn’t. (boy, age 15)

At School A, the parkour sessions were initially offered as an enrichment activity within curriculum time and the dodgeball activity ran as an after-school club. Partner schools linked with the hub school and also ran after school dodgeball clubs. Due to the success of the parkour sessions in School A, the activity was introduced into curricular PE lessons. As the lead practitioner noted:

…both sports are (now) part of the school curriculum and part of our out of school curriculum (lead practitioner)

In addition to the activity sessions, the hub school organised a dodgeball tournament involving 11 teams from 5 schools.

Young leaders

There were a total of 12 young leaders in the school helping to run the Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme. Eight of these students were selected from the dodgeball club, while the 4 parkour young leaders were identified because of their interest in the activity (“simply, (they’re) the ones that have been chewing my ear off to put parkour on”). The young leaders were given a lot of responsibility in terms of leading sessions. As one teacher who supported the dodgeball club explained, “they help to organise, they set up the games, they run some of the games and I just take a backward step just to make sure everything’s overseen for health and safety”. The young leaders commented that they appreciated the support of the teaching staff, in particular their advice on how to explain things clearly and organise sessions. It was evident that the young leaders often took different roles within sessions, some taking responsibility for warm-ups and others for explaining rules or setting up games etc. In some cases, a lot of joint planning went into the session. As one parkour young leader commented: “well, over the weekend I usually get a piece of paper, think what we did the week before, if there was anything they needed to work on a bit more and write that down, image it in my head, where to put things, what resources we’ve got, what I can use to help (and) I bring that into school, talk to a few others about it and if they want to change anything we just change it a little bit and so we’ve all agreed”. The participants in the sessions felt the young leaders did a good job teaching them and described their role as, “helping people who struggle”.


At School A, there was no official targeting for the yoUR activity sessions and all pupils had been invited to the after school clubs or offered the activities for enrichment. However, the lead practitioner noted that the parkour sessions had tended to attract students who could be defined as vulnerable or having social, emotional or behavioural needs. He felt that the nature of the activity may have contributed to this, saying “I think it’s the freedom of the activity, there’s no-one telling them what to do or how to move…it’s something they’re in control of”. This belief was endorsed by the local parkour instructor and the participants. For example, some participants talked about parkour as a ‘lifestyle’ and a ‘community’ rather than a sport. They enjoyed the sense of freedom and control it gave them and the stimulus it gave to their imagination: “I think as well parkour is like, it is a way of life and when in movement of parkour, that’s all you can see, all your worries, everything just disappears and you can just see yourself doing this movement and it just really makes your body feel really good and it’s just amazing”. Other pupils talked about parkour being fun, different and allowing them to express themselves in new ways. The dodgeball participants liked the open nature of the after school club and appreciated being able to play with different age groups and with both girls and boys. As one girl explained: “in dodgeball we play with everyone and we’re not left in year groups or left with just girls or left with just boys, we’re like as a whole team”. Having young leaders rather than teachers leading the sessions was also viewed positively.


In general, it was felt that there had been an extremely positive impact from School A’s involvement in yoUR Activity.

For the school, the benefits were perceived to be an increased enthusiasm among both pupils and teachers, greater involvement of pupils in extra-curricular activities, the re-engagement of some disaffected pupils, enhanced relationships with local deliverers and an enrichment of the curriculum through the inclusion of new activities. In addition, it was felt that staff had gained an appreciation of the effectiveness of ‘lifestyle’ sports and that this had provided confidence to expand the provision within the curriculum.

For the young leaders, the key benefits were perceived to be increased confidence, improved communication skills, enhanced involvement in whole school life, increased interest in PE lessons and the development of positive relationships with teachers and local activity providers. For some pupils, there had also been a perceptible improvement in behaviour as a result of their involvement in yoUR Activity (“one pupil…he got sent out of PE quite a few times, but through sort of leading the parkour within curriculum time and within enrichment he’s just become a nice young man to be around, sort of very responsible when leading sessions”). The young leaders also identified an increase in confidence, with one individual commenting that “…just in general, like when we’re trying to teach something or we’re more confident about what we’re supposed to be doing, so we know what we’re saying and it’s just made us more confident overall of the outside world”. Some young leaders also spoke about the benefits of having experience and qualifications that could aid them in the future, with others highlighting a change in their attitude towards physical activity, health and fitness. One young leader, for example, felt that a key benefit of his involvement had been a loss of weight and increased knowledge of healthy lifestyles:

…From my personal experience, I know it’s a bit weird saying this but I was quite overweight, because ever since I’ve done dodgeball, because I enjoy it and it’s the only sport I like, I’ve lost a lot of weight which impacted on my health as well, so personally I think dodgeball’s impacted on me quite a lot because I’ve really got active and made sure I’ve got a healthy lifestyle now. (boy, age 15)

For the participants, the key positives were increased involvement in activities (both within and beyond the curriculum), enhanced enjoyment of physical activities and higher levels of engagement within sessions. For example, it was noted that around 50 pupils were attending the parkour and dodgeball sessions who had never previously attended an extra-curricular activity. In addition, the lead practitioner noted that there was some evidence to suggest that pupils who attended the parkour sessions had improved their levels of progress in PE assessment standards above those who participated in more traditional sports.


With regard to the sustainability of the programme, all the staff, young leaders and participants felt the activities should continue next year. The good relationships with local deliverers and strong network of young leaders within the school were felt to enhance the possibility of this. In addition, the inclusion of parkour and dodgeball within curriculum time was perceived to be a positive move towards sustaining engagement among pupils. The lead practitioner also noted that he had developed a scheme of work for secondary teachers in response to a perceived lack of confidence in teaching parkour, as well as a lesson plan for primary school teachers, which can both be seen as positive ways to facilitate the sustained involvement of all partner schools in the yoUR Activity sports.

Case Study 2 – School B


School B was a Roman Catholic mixed comprehensive school with a sixth form in South Yorkshire. The school draws pupils from a wide range of social backgrounds from across the city. Most pupils enter the school having achieved slightly better than average results in their primary schools. The proportion of pupils who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities is around average and 92% of pupils are white British. The school is described by Ofsted as an ‘outstanding’ school. The school has benefited from new sports facilities through Building Schools for the Future. The Partnership Development Manager (PDM) for the local schools applied to become involved with Youth Sport Trust through the Youth Sport Trust programme access window. The PDM briefed the School Sport Coordinators (SSCOs) who assisted the schools to set up and deliver the yoUR Activity clubs. The PDM explained the aims of the Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme for the cluster of secondary schools in the area: “We just wanted more …out of lesson time activity in sports which we knew the kids wanted to do. … It was easy for us to do things like netball and hockey and all that sort of thing but things like Parkour and indoor rowing and things, were clubs that we knew the kids really wanted to take part in, but we knew there was extra pressure being put on teachers. So we thought it would be a great way to get clubs going using sports leaders”. The main role of the PDM was helping to organise inter-school competitions for the yoUR Activity clubs.

Training and support

The PDM attended the two hour regional briefing and found it helpful to meet other people with different ideas about how to incorporate the programme in creative ways in their local area. She found the toolkit user friendly and suitable to give to the young leaders: “it was just dead straightforward and gave the kids lots of ideas about what activities the kids could do in the sessions”. After the regional briefing the PDM had a meeting with the area sports staff to explain the yoUR Activity programme and show them the sports that had been chosen. In addition, the PDM ran an afternoon indoor rowing training course for the young leaders from three schools at the case study school site and included how to run a competition, how to administer a relay and how to record results.

The young leader interviewed at the case study school had taken part in training which explained how to set up the equipment and include less confident pupils. She felt the training had prepared her to help lead the sessions.

Structure of yoUR Activity

The activities chosen for the cluster of schools in Case Study B included parkour, indoor rowing and exercise to music. Parkour had been chosen after the young people had expressed an interest but the parkour sessions had not happened as there was no one trained to lead sessions, the sport staff were ‘scared of it’, and it was too expensive to bring in an external coach. Indoor rowing was chosen as the case study school already had some rowing machines from Concept 2 (manufacturer of rowing equipment). The indoor rowing club took place during two lunch times a week and became increasingly popular. Indoor rowing was also used as a wet weather alternative during curriculum time. The sports staff felt it would be good to have some young leaders involved who could help with running the sessions and the intra- and inter-school competitions. The young leaders took an active part in the sessions and instructed the younger pupils on rowing technique, safety and setting up rowing challenges. The rowing machines were attached to on-line software, so individual and competitive challenges could be set up competing against other people in the region and around the world. The on-line software results fed into the intra- and inter-school competitions. There were two enthusiastic teachers in the case study school who supported the indoor rowing clubs, a PE teacher and a Maths teacher. In one school all the Key Stage 3 girls (age 14-16 year olds) had been offered indoor rowing taster sessions in PE lessons and an invitation to take part in an intra-school competition. This was followed up with an opportunity to join a team and take part in a city wide competition. Approximately 70 pupils took part in the city wide competition. Exercise to Music clubs had taken place at two schools. The exercise to music clubs were informal sessions where the girls came with routines and taught them to the other girls. The clubs were supported by qualified dance coaches or a SSCo who specialised in dance.

Young leaders

There were approximately 30 young leaders helping with the yoUR Activity programme clubs across the cluster of ten schools.

The young leader interviewed felt the participants appreciated having young leaders involved with the sessions. She commented: “I think they do because they can relate to us more because we’re a bit younger and we’ve been in their position”. When asked what she thought were the skills of a young leader she replied: “You need to have confidence to talk to all the children, you need to have good communication skills especially, you need to be able to work the equipment, that’s a big one, and you need to know the proper techniques of how to do things so the children don’t injure themselves really”.

This young leader felt that the increased confidence she had developed would help her in the future with interviews for University or jobs and she was considering taking up a sporting activity outside of school.

  1. Do you think it’s affected your attitude to the possibility of doing something (sports activity) outside of school?
  2. Yeah, definitely. Just like I never, when I was younger I never really did activities with sport because I didn’t really want to involve myself with other people. But now I feel I would be able to talk to more people and just get involved more.
  3. Is there anything you’ve tried or thought of trying?
  4. Me and my friends are thinking of starting the gym or going to like a spinning class or something. (girl age 17)


The participants in the focus group explained that they first went to the indoor rowing club because they liked the look of rowing and because lots of their friends did it. The main reason they said they continued with the activity was because it was ‘fun’. When asked what they most enjoyed about the club the participants (girls and boys, age 11) liked the informal, friendly, encouraging, active style of the club:

  • The fact that it wasn’t like you have to be silent and everything, you can talk to your friends or you could go on all the different things, in rowing, they kept a track of what you did so you could improve and stuff.
  • And I liked it that your friends and teachers were encouraging you to do it.
  • I like it, I feel like I’m doing exercise, rather than standing around waiting.
  • You got to use the other equipment (in the gym).

The participants were positive about having the young leaders helping in the sessions and thought the role of a young leader was different to a teacher:

  • Well it’s good because they know where you’ve been and so they know what advice to say.
  • They talk normally as well, they’re not like teachers, they just talk to you like a normal person.


The PDM felt overall the impact of the programme had been to increase the number of alternative lunch-time and afterschool clubs and that it had given the young leaders the chance to support the clubs and develop their leadership skills.

For the school, the PE teacher in the case study school felt the indoor rowing clubs were fantastic and that having the young leaders run the clubs with the support of a Maths teacher gave the school the opportunity to extend the number of activities on offer to the pupils and took the pressure of the PE teachers. The support of the Maths teacher had also encouraged a number of more ‘geeky’ students to take part. The PE teacher in the case study school felt there had been an improvement in the effort and grades in PE of the club participants. She felt that some of the Year 7 (age 11) participants had been attracted to the club as it was held in the fitness suite which was normally only open to older students in the school.

For the young leaders, one of the key benefits included improving their IT skills as they used the indoor rowing software in the sessions. The young leader interviewed felt the impact of helping to lead the club included: learning how to communicate with the children and understand how they learnt; making new friends; realising the link between physical activity and fitness which had led her to join a running club; realising rowing helps to build up muscles which helps to keep the participants fit and healthy; getting involved in this role had helped her get involved with other activities and want to help others in the future. The SSCo thought that having the older pupils helping to run the indoor rowing club had a number of benefits for them as young leaders. Involvement in the club gave them the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and the SSCo observed them develop confidence and knowledge as they led the sessions. As rowers themselves they were able to instruct the participants in good technique and develop the ability to communicate in a way that encouraged and motivated the participants.

For the participants, the key positives were enhanced enjoyment of physical activity, an opportunity to use the fitness suite and feel more part of the school.


In the case study school the indoor rowing club had started again after the summer holidays with the support of the young leaders and PE and Maths teachers. During the case study visit, the SSCo had come to the school to support an intra-school competition during a lunch time and all involved were keen that the club would continue.


This section summarises and highlights the ways participation in alternative activities was increased in the two case study schools.

Case Study 1 was undertaken at a mixed pupil academy in an area of low social deprivation, around a third of the students were eligible for free school meals (twice the national average). In general, School A presented an excellent view of the Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme. The key positives were: the two-hour regional briefing; good local deliverer support; a helpful resource pack; increased engagement of targeted pupils; positive impact for a large number of young leaders/pupils; and NGB training for the young leaders and staff helpers (“The biggest thing for me was working with the governing bodies to get more of a link of playing the right roles, giving (the young leaders) leadership qualifications, just giving that extra confidence to deliver those sports”).

Case Study 2 was carried out in a mixed comprehensive school with a sixth form situated in a wealthy part of a large city and which had lower than average free school meals. School B presented a positive view of the Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme with the inter-school competition and capable, involved young leaders. The key positives were: the commitment of PE and non-PE members of staff and young leaders to run the clubs in the school; an enthusiastic SGO to support the local schools and assist with inter-form competitions and clubs; local regional indoor rowing competitions; a programme with not much paperwork.

These two different schools illustrate that all schools are different and that what works in one may not work in another. This supports the literature that suggests that effective programmes are those that match programme objectives and pupil needs (Sandford et al., 2008: Armour et al., 2012).

The headteacher in case study 1 was reluctant to allow parkour in the school due to the perceived safety risks which is a concern expressed by many school leaders (McLean 2006, Booth & Thorpe, 2007, Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011). However, due to the persistence of the pupils and teachers she was prepared to give it a try and this activity proved successful. In case study 2, although the area sports staff (PDM) did attempt to introduce parkour the school staff ‘were scared of it’ and it wasn’t pursued. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents publicly endorsed parkour. Its safety education adviser, Dr Jenny McWhirter, said: “Anything that encourages young people to be active and try new challenges in a supervised environment will help them learn to manage risk. Free running (another name for parkour) is like any other activity in that it tests their limits. It is better they learn it in schools than on the streets”, (cited in Johnson & Wroe, 2009).

In Case Study 2, the young leaders were pupils in the sixth form (17-18 year olds) who wanted to improve their experience to help them with their University applications and interviews. The indoor rowing participants had been recruiting sporty long-limbed individuals so that they had a chance of winning the regional competitions. The activity had increased participation in after school clubs as desired by the PDM and school staff but not specifically for the disengaged or inactive. In Case Study 1, the young leaders were pupils in year 10 (age 15 year olds) who were motivated to promote the activities in the school and who felt the experience of leading and the skills they had developed would help them when they left school the following year. The participants and young leaders were mainly disengaged or inactive young people and the programme resulted in them becoming measurably healthier in addition to becoming increasingly part of the school community. Both schools clearly benefited from the initiative but in different ways influenced by their different cultures.


The two case studies and the broader evaluation findings demonstrate that alternative sports can have many benefits in school sport both during curricular and extra-curricular time (Ofsted 2009, Stidder & Binney 2011). The culture of the school and perceptions of the school staff had a strong influence on the type of young people who were recruited to take part in the programme in the schools. In case study 1, individual participants stated how their participation in alternative sports had helped them overcome obesity, engage with secondary PE and re-engage with the school community (Brown, 2011). Many additionally observed that their involvement in the activities was central to their physical activity and cultural lifestyles (Griggs, 2012). In case study 2, the volunteer leaders increased in their self-confidence and skills and individual young people felt more engaged with the school and participation in extra-curricular activities was increased. Both case studies illustrate how the involvement with the activities had increased confidence and enjoyment of sport enabling engagement with PE and other activities (Brown, 2011).


I would like to acknowledge the research team involved with the evaluation of the Youth Sport Trust yoUR Activity programme which included Dr Carolynne Mason, Dr Rebecca Duncombe and Dr Rachel Sandford.


[i] Free school meals (2012) are offered to children of families who are in receipt of Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, and to those of families who are in receipt of Child Tax Credit only, but who are not entitled to Working Tax Credit, and whose annual income does not exceed £16,190.


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DCMS              Department for Culture, Media and Sport

DCSF               Department for Children, Schools and Families

EMD                 Exercise, Music and Dance

FSM                 Free School Meals

NGB                 National Governing Body

PDM                 Partnership Development Manager

PE                    Physical Education

SSCo               School Sport Coordinator

SGO                School Games Organiser

YST                 Youth Sport Trust



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