Read the full A-Star Sports blog. With a wide range of articles on sport and coaching headlines, children’s activities, child development, health and fitness, education and business (with a franchising focus), there’s something for everyone.
A quick view of our latest posts:
Starting out in sport - A-Star Sports ambassador Helen Richardson talks about her early experiences and inspiration
Interview with Helen Richardson, Team GB hockey player and Olympic bronze medallist
Inspiring children to be active and play sport at all levels is a key ambition for A-Star Sports ambassador Helen Richardson. Knowing just how important early engagement is for young children, we asked Helen about how she got started and what encouraged her to keep participating:
What’s your earliest memory of enjoying being active / playing sport?
“When I was about 5 or 6 years old, playing football and cricket in the park with my three older brothers and roller hockey on the patio in the back garden. We would literally spend the whole day playing and generally being active.”
What influence did your family, friends, teachers and coaches have on you with regard to being active / playing sport?
“My family were massively influential. First of all my parents both loved sport, it was part of my life from day one. Then I had three brothers who I always played sport with or just making up games. We also lived next to a park which was quite deliberate and was perfect for being active but safe at the same time. I had a male teacher at my Primary School who started a football and cricket club and invited the girls to play with the boys which was great for me. I also joined a local hockey club when I was seven years old with my brothers. It was a men’s club and the coaches were completely responsible for giving me the best start to my hockey playing career, they were very influential.”
Who were your most influential role models in Key Stages 1 & 2 (primary school)?
“I guess the people I’ve mentioned above. So my brothers, my Primary school teacher and my hockey club coaches.”
What inspired you as a youngster to keep on participating?
“I just absolutely loved it! It’s just what I did, I really enjoyed it, I was good at it and that’s where, for me, I felt most comfortable. I also thrived on the competitive side of sport.”
What advice would you give to parents / families / teachers / coaches trying to inspire children to take part in activities and sports?
“Start as young as possible. Make it fun and enjoyable. Praise hard work. Challenge those that want and need to be challenged, allowing them to explore their own solutions. The same for the competitive side, some love it and need it, some hate it. Lastly, if it’s cold and wet outside, either go inside, or get them in the right kit to keep them warm….being cold is the worst thing when playing sport!”
Starting with the WOW factor
Interview with A-Star Sports franchise owner Adrian Dunn
Adrian Dunn launched his A-Star Sports business in February 2013 in the Wrexham,Oswestry and Whitchurch area – WOW! As a former dairy farmer and youth worker, Adrian has been involved in running youth clubs, the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and organising a wide variety of sports activities. After an injury at work led him to re-think his career, he went back to university in Wrexham and graduated with the ambition to realise his dream of working for himself. Here’s how Adrian has been getting started with A-Star Sports:
How has starting your new A-Star Sports business been so far?
Starting up A-Star Sports has been fun, very busy and challenging. The most enjoyable part has been setting up my own weekly classes and growing them. Doing my first party was fun, too, but I was really nervous! The challenges have been getting clued up on the business side and familiarising myself with all the lesson plans. I have been working on overcoming this by concentrating on the business side in the mornings and evenings. I have also been reading the coaching manuals as well as practising them in my set-up times in the venues before classes begin. The A-Star Sports team has been really supportive, too.
What’s a typical day for you in this start-up phase?
A typical day for me at the moment begins with the business and administrative side of things. This can involve organising class registers, forms for parents, keeping on top of the information needed for invoicing and financial management as well as conducting marketing activity and distributing information. Although word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool, it is still good to get posters up in prominent places, drop leaflets off at playgroups and generally raise awareness in the local area. I also speak regularly to advertisers about getting information on their web pages (particularly Kidsguide and Netmums in my area).
In the afternoon initially my time was taken up in training for starting up my own classes. My training is still ongoing in some aspects of the business and coaching but I am now in a position to start delivering my own classes. And in the evening and weekends, I have been travelling to venues to establish their suitability for classes, parties and holiday clubs, looking at size, location etc.
What have been the most valuable things you have learned in training?
The training in the delivery of classes has been very good. The most valuable things I learnt are:
- always keep talking to the children;
- don’t turn your back on the children!;
- keep learning the lesson plans;
- don’t be worried about making mistakes - but be aware of where you went wrong and reflect on the classes afterwards.
In the first few months it can be difficult to manage time as you feel like everything needs doing at once – training, advertsing, visiting venues, setting up venues, getting out to places to put posters up, drop leaflets off. But if you prioritise what needs doing first, organise your business side of things from the start (how you want it to be for the future as this will save time in the longer term especially with invoicing and records) and keep referring back to the research you carried out when you evaluated your territory then this all helps. Offering some free classes in the area to pre-schools, toddler groups and some schools so they can see what A-Star Sports is all about is also really positive.
What advice would you give to potential / other new franchise owners?
Word-of-mouth is good – really nurture your contacts as they can help you to grow.
Don’t be afraid to do some free sessions so families will see what it is you do, bring their own children to a class and start to spread the word on your behalf.
Be friendly to people, be honest and get stuck in - you are your own advertisement. By getting stuck in, talking to parents, having fun with the children, this will build your confidence in a really positive way.
Speak to local people in the area where you are looking to start up classes. You may find they are eager to have something in their village. Ask locals about advertising in the area, for instance in Overton they have a local newsletter that goes to all the homes called the ‘Oracle’ that you can submit stories to. The locals often have knowledge of other venues and a phone number and name of the person who looks after the village hall in the area. Local knowledge is invaluable.
Find your style of working – for me, I need space! Space to use the whole floor to arrange my receipts to go the accountant, labelled drawers so that I can organise things in the way that I need them (and find them again later) and organised shelving for my sports equipment to go on. Make sure you find what works best for you.
Adrian’s team currently runs classes in St Margaret’s Church and Community Hall (Garden Village), Kenyon Hall (Holt), Overton Village Hall (Overton-on-Dee) and Brymbo & Tanyfron Regeneration Trust (Brymbo). Adrian is planning additional classes in other towns and villages in the WOW franchise area on the England-Wales border – for timetable details visit: http://www.a-starsports.co.uk/local-classes/wrexham-oswestry-whitchurch/
Physical education and physical activity – combatting the cultural shift
In a recent article ‘UK sport chief: PE is not just a game’ (1), Baroness Campbell outlined a core challenge for primary schools in finding PE specialists and claimed of some headteachers: “[Heads] don’t know what high quality PE looks like…It’s as if they look out the window and see kids running around, making lots of noise, and think that’s fine because they’re burning off energy.” This generated a wealth of discussion around better PE training for teachers to ensure children finishing the primary phase of their education are physically literate and able to demonstrate basic skills (e.g. running, jumping, catching and throwing) as well as fitness.
But even those of us who are physical education and sport specialists, as providers of private sector extra-curricular sports activities as well as those delivering in schools and local communities, are put under scrutiny with headlines like ‘Are interventions to promote physical activity a waste of time?’(2) and ‘After-school activity may have minimal effects in physical fitness says BMJ’ (3). The context of many of these studies is often lost in the uproar of who feels insulted by what and the variety of overlapping specialist areas – physical activity, physical literacy, properly managed competitive sport, reducing drop-off levels in participation, health management (particularly sedentary lifestyles and obesity) and academic performance – which are thrown together in the broad discussion of what to do for the best and how to make it stick.
The emphasis on updating teacher training and the ‘minimal effects’ of extra-curricular activities on physical fitness are indicative of changing times. In school teachers are face with the aftermath of sedentary out-of-school habits and it’s possible that the time spent in extra-curricular activities simply replaces the former self-generated options such as playing out or the less supervised outdoor activities of times past, rather than adding to them. And this is just the beginning when it comes to a cultural shift:
· Only 33% boys and 21% of girls currently meet UK guidelines of at least 60 minutes of physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity for at least 60 minutes a day (4);
· Up to 70% of adults in England do not do the recommended minimum amount of physical activity (5).
Modern day pressures and pleasures are sedentary, which bring the need for physical education and physical activity to the fore – not one or the other but both. The reality is that we need to be more consciously active than ever in order not to fall foul of technological shortcuts and the likes. In being more conscious of the activity we do and increasing awareness of what we need (6), a good foundation in physical education is a must as well as enough moderate to vigorous physical activity (sports-based or otherwise) to keep us fit and having fun.
The key to a lasting impact is balance alongside the help of teachers, coaches, family and friends – if we have the PE basics and are able to run, jump, catch and throw then each of us can enjoy playing sports competitively or socially and even ‘make lots of noise…and [burn] off energy’ through other physical activities of choice (if this is what makes it fun for those taking part!). We all have different motivations but a solid physical education can give us the tools with which to enjoy physical activity in whatever form for the rest of our lives.
So, good training for teachers is key. Good training for coaches is key. Accessible research, information and opportunities for families are key. But none of these will ever make a big enough impact in isolation. The government, schools, independent specialists and families must share the responsibility and support each other in order to instigate what can only be described as a tricky cultural change. Let’s take the criticism and the research and stand shoulder-to-shoulder as positive, proactive, informed and enthusiastic ‘active practice’ role models who can balance physical education and physical activity in the best way for each and every one of us.
1 ‘UK sport chief: PE is not just a game’ – by Richard Vaughan and Kerra Maddern, http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6318810
2 ‘Are interventions to promote physical activity in children a waste of time?’ http://www.govtoday.co.uk/primary-care/12872-are-interventions-to-promote-physical-activity-in-children-a-waste-of-time
3 ‘After-school activity may have minimal effects on physical fitness says BMJ’ http://www.teacherswhocoach.co.uk/2013/02/26/after-school-activity-may-have-minimal-effects-on-physical-fitness-says-bmj/?utm_source=Teachers+Who+Coach+Newsletter&utm_campaign=775dffda87-04_03_2013&utm_medium=email
4 ‘Are interventions to promote physical activity in children a waste of time?’ http://www.govtoday.co.uk/primary-care/12872-are-interventions-to-promote-physical-activity-in-children-a-waste-of-time
5 ‘Time to move: the major benefit physical activity’ http://www.govtoday.co.uk/health/44-public-health/2832-time-to-move-the-major-benefit-of-physical-activity
6 BHF – physical activity guidelines – ‘Start active, stay active’ http://www.bhfactive.org.uk/guidelines/index.html
UK sport chief: PE is not just a game - news - TES
“Primary school headteachers are failing to provide pupils with high- quality PE and sports skills and are instead happy to just see children “running around, making lots of noise”, the head of UK Sport has warned. Baroness Sue Campbell, who is also chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said secondary schools were beginning to realise the potential beneficial effects that PE and sport could have on their pupils, but criticised primaries for lagging behind.”
This is the core difference between physical activity, which most definitely has its place, and physical education, which takes into account and builds on developmental stages over key periods of time to the best benefit of each child participating. Both should be fun!