Youth Sport West (YSW) is an extra-curricular project co-ordinated by Sligo Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) in association with Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership (SSRP). The programme has been funded by the European Union’s Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation for the past number of years and also receives support from Irish Sports Council at national level and the Health Service Executive-West (HSE-W) locally. Youth Sport West has been operating successfully since 1999.
The aim of the project is to provide extra-curricular sporting opportunities for children in primary and secondary schools by creating an environment in which every young person can be encouraged and enabled to derive benefit from participation in sporting activities.
Youth Sport West endeavours to offer a broad and balanced programme of sporting activities to all young people and in particular to offer children the opportunity to participate in new and exciting sporting activities, while supporting the development of school/club links thus creating pathways for children into the sport of their choice.
Extra-curricular programmes with an emphasis on non-competitive, child-friendly environments have proved popular and highly beneficial to children in primary schools and helps encourage all children to participate in quality programmes, giving children a positive first experience of sport encouraging them to carry on participation into adulthood.
In addition, a number of training courses have been organised to help increase the number of qualified coaches in Sligo, with a particular focus on trying to train local people as coaches in their own communities/schools. Training opportunities have been provided for teachers, students, leaders and sports co-ordinators.
Youth Sport West works to establish effective working partnerships with all key stakeholders; Sligo Vocational Education Committee, Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership, Irish Sports Council, Health Service Executive- West, Sligo County Council, Western Education and Library Board, Western Health and Social Services Board, Omagh District Council, Fermanagh District Council, Northern Ireland Sports Council.
Where it all Began
In 1997, Sligo VEC together with the Western Education and Library Board proposed a joint regional youth sport initiative which sought to build an active partnership to drive youth sport activity and development across their shared cross border region, in the context of their respective national policies and their subsequent implementation.
The ‘Youth Sport West’ project began in 1999, and represented a partnership between Sligo VEC, WELB, the Irish Sports Council, the Northern Ireland Sports Council, and respective local authorities and health boards. ‘Youth Sport West’ was financially supported under the first EU Peace Programme.
2002-2004 Enabling Development Through Youth and Community Sports
In 2002-2004 Sligo VEC and the WELB were lead partners for ‘Enabling Development Through Youth and Community Sports’. This project was proposed as a follow on and development of the Youth Sports West initiative. It was funded under Priority 5 Measure 3 of the Special European Union Programme for Peace and Reconciliation 2000-2004 (Peace II).
This project increased the delivery of extra curricular sports programmes to schools in the Western Education & Library Board and County Sligo and a large database of coaches was developed. There was an introduction to cross border engagement and the management committee for this project expanded to included Health, Education and Local Councils representatives to oversee the project.
2006-2008 Developing Opportunities through Youth Sport
In 2006-2008 Sligo VEC and the WELB were again lead partners for ‘Developing Opportunities through Youth Sport’. This project was funded under the Special European Union Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace II Extension Programme) under Priority 5 Measure 2 and received slippage funding to continue additional activities.
Extra curricular sports programme were delivered to a larger selection of schools in the Western Education & Library Board and County Sligo. Schools were linked on a cross border basis and extensive cross border engagement took place through sports days and exchanges.
A joint inter-agency Management Committee (North / South) was established to oversee the project. The management team includes skilled representatives from both lead agencies; Sligo Vocational Education Committee and Western Education & Library Board, Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership, the Irish and Northern Ireland Sports Councils, representatives from local authorities/councils in the areas of Sligo, Fermanagh and Omagh and the Health Service Executive.
2010 – 2012 Developing a Shared Society Through Youth Sport
In 2010-2012 Sligo VEC and the WELB were again lead partners for ‘Developing A Shared Society through Youth Sport’. This project was funded under the Special European Union Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace III) under Priority 2 Contributing to a Shared Society, Theme 2 Key Institutional Capacities are Developed for a Shared Society.
Extra curricular sports programme specifically addressing issues relating to inclusion were delivered to higher numbers of schools in the Western Education & Library Board and County Sligo areas. Extensive cross border engagement with both post primary and primary schools with an emphasis on developing and sustaining partnership was completed,including Cross border linking of schools, and cross community linking of feeder schools. Another new element of the project involved expansion into the community setting through ‘Come and Try Festivals’ which linked with clubs. Peace and reconciliation workshops allowed dialogue and discussion about the conflict and an art project provided opportunities for participants to express their feelings and thoughts around the topic. There were peace and reconciliation and cultural diversity themed workshops, training and seminars provided for coaches, teachers, co-ordinators and the management team. The development and delivery of the accredited ‘Youth Sport Leadership Award’ for senior students in secondary schools proved to be extremely popular with students. The management committee partnership strengthened and co-operation and learning benefits were an outcome for all involved.
Currently there is no cross border funding in place for the Youth Sport West project. However, the project continues to be delivered locally by Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership in conjunction with Sligo VEC and with support from the Irish Sports Council and HSE-West.