In May 2021, when we came up with a new initiative of a multi-sport drop-in zone at YMCA Lagoon Stadium - our mission was to provide a safe, fun, and active environment for our tamariki. We wanted children to have the opportunity to explore different sports, find their passion and discover their potential. We provided all equipment and the facility at no cost to bridge the financial gap and increase participation, where every child had equal opportunity.
During our first session we had parents who brought their children with special needs to participate in this programme. As this number grew to an average of 15 families participating on a weekly basis, we wanted to provide a programme that would benefit this community - so their children felt safe, secure and had a sense of belonging to help them thrive.
Our team got to work creating a dedicated space and bringing in our experienced sports instructors to design a programme specifically for the children. The first hour allowed them to get comfortable and have fun with dance, jump jams and activities that included parent and child games. In the second hour, they experience various sports such as table tennis, basketball, futsal, badminton, volleyball, obstacle courses, hockey and many more.
A key component of the course is to encourage family involvement so both children and parents get engaged and active through this programme. We have witnessed positive changes. In the beginning, often just a single parent accompanied their child, but as the weeks progressed and word spread, more members of the family were accompanying them, sometimes with siblings and even grandparents too.
The team at Y Lagoon Stadium also conducted a survey with parents to know more about their interest in this programme. This survey gave us valuable insights to understand the participation barriers, age groups and other programmes of interest that we could incorporate, in the future.
Just two weeks prior to the lockdown, we offered a couple of free trial gymnastic sessions to this community which they loved and appreciated. We are now planning a day each week where we can provide free gymnastics sessions to this community in addition to the multi-sport programme.
We cannot wait to develop and provide more programmes such as a summer swim/water safety course, holiday programmes, and more weekly parents & children dance sessions. Because here at the Y we believe every child deserves a chance to learn, a chance to dream, and a community that supports them.