A new initiative being run by the Clare Sports Partnership in Kilrush is hoping to increase engagement with sport among the local community with a taster series across the month of September.
The Sports Hub is being hosted at the Clare County Council run astro-turf facility in the town, with coaches from a variety of local sports clubs along with the help of Community Sports Development Officer Pat Sexton.
He outlined what the project aims to achieve.
“It is joined up thinking between the Clare Sports Partnership and the local clubs in Kilrush. We are running taster sessions on the astro turf which Clare County Council have given us free usage of for the Monday evenings in September. The whole point of it is to try and get more young people involved in sports and we can do that by joining up with the clubs and giving them the platform to showcase their particular sport to the young people. Access and transport can often be a problem for people in getting to club grounds so we are here in the middle of the town for these sessions which is accessible for everyone. This idea came about through a number of parties coming together. We are sitting on an inter-agency group with the Mid-Western Drug Taskforce, An Garda Siochana, the County Council and ourselves in the Clare Sports Partnership. Parts of Kilrush are currently classified as being disadvantaged so this is a chance for us to help in providing an outlet like this and the evidence there that sport can be used as a tool to do that. We are only a small player in the bigger picture but it is all about getting this initiative going and getting the local community engaged with it. It is going well so far and the numbers coming have been positive. We are right beside the road into the town here so people have been stopping to ask what is going on and numbers have been building week on week. Our mission statement is to create a safe environment where members of the community have enhanced opportunities of access to sport and sporting facilities through a coordinated approach that engages all relevant stakeholders from the voluntary, statutory and private sectors. We had 35 on our first week, and when those who had been there went to school the next day and spread the word, we had three times that amount the following week”.
The taster series will showcase a wide range of sports across this month with coaches from local clubs giving young people a chance to try out the various facets of each. Pat feels that diversity is important to cater for every child’s interest.
“So far we have had tag rugby, athletics and basketball tasters and we plan on having soccer, GAA and lots more too. It is just about opening those opportunities for the young people to get involved in. Not everyone can just walk into a club and decide that they are going to be a member and in the likes of GAA clubs, you cannot play without signing up for membership. This is a free chance for people to try out the various sports and see if they like it and if they do, that’s great. It is the local coaches that are running the sessions so that link will be there straight away. Clubs can benefit from this and they have really bought into it which is great to see. We engaged with them from the outset and there has been over six months work in getting this off the ground so it was important to have them on board. Everyone involved in it is from West Clare so there is that element of pride in it too for the local community” he noted.
“If nothing else comes of it, we have them here for an hour or two and there is no technology there. One in four children are overweight and one in six are obese which are scary statistics so the young people who come along here to get involved are getting that chance to get out and enjoy some psychical activity to try and help with their overall health. You can’t wrap your hands around the whole county but you can take small measures and put these kinds of structures in place and hope that people will engage. Hopefully this can be that start of something that remains in place for a while to come. We are in a privileged position that the County Council have given us the use of this facility to get this up and running. It would not have worked without that, but the Council can see the benefit of having a neutral place to run this”.
Richard Murphy, Sports Facilities manager with Active Ennis and Active Kilrush, feels having a Council owned facility hosting this kind of series is a positive move.
“It has taken a while to get some traction but it is a great initiative by the Clare Sports Partnership and hopefully it will kick-start more interaction with the facility by the local community. You need to give people something to engage with and play in, and these are safe and state of the art facilities so it is case of build it and they will come. You can’t underestimate the importance of psychical exercise for young people for their fitness and mental well-being too. The Council has committed to try and expand these facilities across the county so it is a step by step approach that is always funding dependent” he noted.