Coalfield communities have faced significant challenges over recent times as the world was suddenly forced to adapt to a new way of life as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As an organisation, we have been shown great adaptivity to continue providing a delivery of our services to those individuals living in former mining areas who need our support. However Game On, the trusts community sport programme, has been significantly affected during the pandemic, with restrictions to community sport leading to large periods of time with no delivery. This national coalfields day it seemed appropriate to look back and reflect on the challenges faced, but more importantly look to the future and celebrate the recent successes the programme has had in re-starting delivery since the pandemic hit the world.
In line with government guidance, the programme has been working hard towards steadily returning to a state of normality where it is safe to do so and for the first time since March 2020, Game On England Football 5ives programme of diversionary small-sided football sessions for ages 11-18, was finally been delivered in full across all 8 sites. On top of these returning sessions there have been six new sessions set up, ranging from football sessions for 5 to 11 year olds girls, walking football and walking cricket for older adults and two new Football 5ives sessions.
With many people being less physically active during the pandemic and an increase in loneliness, anxiety and depression, this delivery has provided much needed opportunities for individuals in some of our most deprived communities to be physically active and socialise after long periods of restrictions. Since April 2021 alone approximately 800 people have been able to enjoy free provision in coalfield communities across Yorkshire and the East Midlands compared to the 113 in pandemic hit 2020. This success after the stagnant few months continues to drive more sessions and provision which aims to improve health and wellbeing in areas with limited provision.
Talking about the sessions and what it was like when Football 5ives wasn’t delivering, one participant commented that “it’s something we all look forward to as we love the session…the thing I missed most was having a laugh with other participants and the coaches.”
“It has been a challenging year or so for everyone, and for many our football 5ives sessions are a great opportunity to get out with their mates, play football and socialise, so having that taken away from them has been tough. Here at Game On we have been committed to returning this provision, and although it has been challenging due to various restrictions and getting started and having to stop again, our commitment has never wavered. To finally get all of our sessions back up and running is a massive relief, and now our attention turns to expanding our offer further across the East Midlands.” Alex Hobson, Game On England Development Officer.