Posted: Tue, 06 Apr 2021 15:20

Why Sport Matters for All: Celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

'Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.'

Nelson Mandela

Being physically active helps us all to stay fit and healthy, but inequalities exist in sport. Research from Sport England has shown Black and Asian people, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and disabled people are less likely to be physically active. This is why the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is important, as it uses the power of sport to drive social change and tackles inequalities. The day is celebrated every year on 6th April, a date which marks the opening of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.

My name is Matthew Chilvers and I received the Diana Award in 2019 for changing the perception of disability sport. I am an autistic tennis player and Level 2 tennis coach and work as a casual coach for a local borough council. Since the age of 15 I have been volunteering as a coach at Desford Lawn Tennis Club, helping to run inclusive and general sessions. In 2018 I was selected as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero for the East Midlands for my work to encourage more people with disabilities to become involved in tennis.

I get so much out of sport and I want others to have the same opportunities

Ensuring sport is more accessible and inclusive is an area I am passionate about. For my dissertation for my BA Hons in Sport Management at Loughborough College, I decided to investigate physical activity in adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. Adults with learning difficulties and disabilities benefit from being active as it reduces anxiety and the likelihood of becoming obese. But my research showed that the attitudes and perceptions of others are preventing this group participating in sport. This is because people may think disabled people are not competitive and do not want to join in as they are worried they may get hurt, which is leading to a lack of opportunities.

One way I'm trying to make a difference is through the Sport and Recreation Alliance Youth Advisory Panel. The Sport and Recreation Alliance are the voice of the sector to the government and provide advice and support to their members, which include national governing bodies of sport and leisure organisations. I have been a member since the panel started in 2019 and am encouraged to share a young person's perspective on getting more young people with disabilities active. So far during my time the Panel has:

• Attended the Sport and Recreation Alliance Parliamentary Summer Reception at the Houses of Parliament

• Created mini campaigns that used sport to try and reduce knife crime, which were used to assist Bedfordshire police with their campaigns and work around knife crime

• Introduced subgroups which includes the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group which is focused on driving social change and championing equality and diversity

• Developed plans to reach out to hard-to-reach disability and inclusion groups such as Hindu Youth UK and the Muslim Youth Council

• Met virtually with Sporting Equals, who promote ethnic diversity across sport and physical activity, to discuss why people from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds do not participate in physical activity

I was lucky enough to attend the annual Sport and Recreation Alliance Parliamentary Summer Reception in the House of Commons in 2019, where I spoke to MPs, members of the House of Lords and interested stakeholders. A highlight was meeting retired international wheelchair racer and UK Active Chair Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, who talked with me about increasing young people's involvement in physical activity and some of the barriers young people with disabilities face to participating in sport.

Action for International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 6th April 2021

For me, the International day of Sport for Development and Peace is more important than ever this year, as it has been challenging to be active during this unprecedented health crisis. For disabled people, there has been a harmful effect on their activity levels with research from the Activity Alliance the national charity for disabled people in sport and activity showing twice as many disabled people felt Coronavirus reduced their ability to be active compared to non-disabled people.

In February 2021, the Activity Alliance launched their 2nd annual Disability and Activity survey, which provides a greater understanding about disabled people's attitudes and involvement in physical activity. If you would like to find more, you can follow this link.

The pandemic has also affected our mental health, which can be improved by being physically active. So, ensuring we are all active as much as possible is key. If you would like to have a go at any sport, I recommend visiting the Active Partnerships website, where you can find your local Active Partnership. This will have listings of sport activities in your local area.

Finally, to find out more about participation of children and adults from Black and Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, Sport England's 'Sport for all? Why ethnicity and culture matters in sport and physical activity' report here is an interesting read.

Why Sport Matters for All: Celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

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