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Rowing club helping disadvantaged young people become more active

PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:08 01 August 2019

Olympian and Active Row patron Pete Reed encourages Gabrielle and Mihai on the rowing machines. Picture: Georgia Boyd.

Olympian and Active Row patron Pete Reed encourages Gabrielle and Mihai on the rowing machines. Picture: Georgia Boyd.

Archant

A rowing programme in the borough is helping secondary school pupils across London overcome barriers, change their perceptions and become more active.

Active Row participants try out the rowing machines. Picture: Georgia Boyd.Active Row participants try out the rowing machines. Picture: Georgia Boyd.

Active Row aims to engage young people who are less likely to participate in physical activity, such as those from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, girls, and those with special educational needs or a disability.

It is the flagship programme of Royal Docks charity London Youth Rowing (LYR) and works with more than 70 state schools, including about 10 in Newham and the surrounding boroughs.

Pupils are introduced to the sport with indoor rowing machines in their school gyms, then progress to boats on the water, with many going on to join rowing clubs.

Gabrielle Akator, 14, said: "It is really useful for people like me because a lot of people think rowing is for people in private schools.

Project patron Pete Reed shows his Olympic gold medals to Active Row participants during a session at Olympic Park. Picture: Georgia Boyd.Project patron Pete Reed shows his Olympic gold medals to Active Row participants during a session at Olympic Park. Picture: Georgia Boyd.

"Active Row has helped us see that it isn't and helped get a lot more young people into rowing than just those from more advantaged backgrounds."

Being introduced to the sport inspired Gabrielle to pursue it more competitively, so she joined Globe Rowing Club - which trains at the Royal Docks - about nine months ago.

"All the time I was on the machine I was just really excited to row on the water, so when I first started doing that it was really challenging but really cool, that I could propel this little toothpick (boat) to go backwards," she said.

"(I enjoy) the competitive nature of the club as well, they always push you to do your best, which made me stick with it."

Active Row is a finalist for the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards in the best sports project category, beating more than 700 organisations to reach the public voting stage.

The project with the most votes will receive a £10,000 cash prize and National Lottery Awards trophy at a ceremony to be broadcast on BBC One in November.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist rower Pete Reed, who is patron of Active Row, attended a rowing session at Olympic Park on Wednesday, July 31.

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He said it was important to engage young people in physical activity and make a sport often perceived as elite more accessible to all.

"It's opening the doors to rowing to state schools, to get as many people through - as much talent through - and show that rowing is accessible," Reed said.

"It's a wonderful sport, often described as the ultimate team sport, and through programmes like this, we can change people's lives.

"LYR take people who might not think they're very good at sport, or who maybe struggle with confidence or mental health, or maybe have specific learning difficulties, and show them rowing.

"It's not just about sport, it's about health and society - sport is the remedy."

Active Row has been running for about two years, but LYR has offered similar programmes under different names for about eight years now.

The project involves secondary pupils from Year 7 through to sixth form, with a particular focus on Years 9 and 10, as research shows those are the ages children are most inactive.

Active Row director Emily Coe said: "We are working on tackling inactivity throughout London.

"We're looking at working with young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds and trying to get them engage in physical activity through a unique sport that they probably haven't had the opportunity to try."

She said offering a sport that was different from those they would otherwise try at school gave them another way to get active.

"They get excited about coming in the water," she said.

"It engages a lot of those young people who wouldn't necessarily call themselves sporty, because they don't play football or basketball or other sports they do in PE lessons.

"I think there's a sense of achievement around it as well - a lot of young people we work with have never been on the water - so they're bulding resilience, confidence and all those things we know are really important in life."

To vote for LYR's Active Row in the National Lottery Awards, visit lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards or use the Twitter hashtag #NLAActiveRow before midnight on August 21.

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