Hundreds of young people 6-16 year olds from every corner of Surrey took up the chance to get involved in the county’s biggest multi-activity festival outside school, when the free Specsavers Surrey Youth Games made a triumphant post-pandemic return.
Held at the Surrey Sports Park on Saturday 18 June the event was the culmination of weeks of training for the children and teens taking part, none of whom had ever played their chosen sport or activity in earnest before.
6-16 year olds in borough and district squads ran, rowed, cycled, swam, jumped, wrestled and danced their way through the day in their chosen activity, performing in front of their families for the first time. Thanks to local councils, sponsors and organisers Active Surrey, the pre-Games training and event day were all completely free.
Calling time on COVID
The lingering impact of the pandemic - which saw young people hit hard by the absence of community and school sport - was uppermost in the minds of those councils who planned the initial training, Aside from effect on children’s physical health (one third of whom are active for less than 30 minutes a day in Surrey – the recommended minimum is 60 minutes), the lack of opportunities to stay active has contributed to mental health and socialisation problems for some.
By directly addressing these issues the Specsavers Surrey Youth Games event has played a part in helping reverse those trends. Alongside girls’ football, tennis skills and the ever-popular judo, new events for this year (all for beginners) included:
- Swimming / water confidence - to make up for the 20%+ drop in children attending pools
- Dance - specifically designed to be inclusive of all abilities
- Street basketball – a less formal, half-size version of the full sport that can be easily copied on community courts
- GoTri – helping teens improve their fitness with a combination of short distance rowing, cycling and running
Fair play wins through
Enjoying their day was the main objective for those taking part, but in doing so their team could be nominated for the Gerry Ceaser ‘Spirit of the Games’ Award for following the Games’ values of respect, determination, honesty and teamwork. In the end, Elmbridge won through with Reigate & Banstead, Runnymede and Woking all in joint second place.
Commenting on the whole programme, Active Surrey Managing Director Lil Duggan said: “Young people wouldn't have had the chance to build new skills and experience the Specsavers Surrey Youth Games without the support of local councils, coaches, volunteers and our sponsors. On behalf of those taking part, we'd like to say a big thank you for helping us bring the Games back in 2022 and making a difference to the lives of so many young people.
“For more than 20 years this event has been a force for good in Surrey, reaching over 70,000 children, but it feels like there’s never been a bigger need to help young people build a love of activity that will stay with them for life.”
For the Games’ title sponsors – whose Surrey stores also donated over £5000 of sports kit to local clubs and those taking part in the run up to the final event - James Sawyer, Divisional Chair for Specsavers across Surrey commented:
“On behalf of everyone at Specsavers in Surrey, I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to each team, each player and each volunteer who made the 2022 Specsavers Surrey Youth Games a success.
“We are also mindful that a huge amount of planning went into staging the event and thank Active Surrey, as well as every local district and borough council who galvanised their communities to take part.
“In our eyes, everyone was a winner over the weekend and the spirit and determination was inspiring to watch.”