Residents who find it difficult to access mainstream physical activity and sporting sessions can now enjoy a variety of sports at Riverside Leisure Centre, thanks to the arrival of the award-winning Sport For Confidence programme, supported by Chelmsford City Council.
The pioneering Sport for Confidence programme places specialist health professionals alongside sports coaches to deliver a wide range of sports and physical activities for those who face barriers to participation. The social enterprise is already running successful programmes at 6 other leisure venues in Essex , one in Waltham Forest and one in Westminister, collectively welcoming more than 1,200 participants per month.
The new Riverside Leisure Centre is set to open this June after a two-year transformation project. This flagship leisure complex is fully equipped for users of all abilities and is set to be one of the most accessible centres in the East of England. Alongside other facilities such as a gym, sports hall and ice rink, it contains a stunning 25m x 10 lane pool with hoists and two Changing Places units, and will host a comprehensive programme of disability-friendly classes, sessions and events all year round.
Megan Potts, Occupational Therapist, will work alongside Lead Coach, Ashley Davies, to deliver the programme at Riverside Leisure Centre. She says: “Everybody deserves to have access to sporting opportunities yet many people in the community face barriers to even walk through the doors of a leisure centre, such as a lack of confidence or anxiety about the unfamiliar environment they are entering.
“Working in close partnership with the leisure centre team, community nursing groups, GPs and many other community support services, Sport For Confidence will make regular physical activity possible for many who are currently inactive and, potentially, leading very isolated lives. Every session is adapted to the needs of the participants with a focus on fun and social interaction.”
Sport For Confidence, has already received recognition from NHS England* as an excellent example of how businesses, health professionals and councils can come together to deliver a service which hugely benefits the community. Uniquely, the scheme places an Allied Health Professional and sports coach alongside each other, delivering physical activity sessions designed to bring bespoke, life changing, occupational outcomes to each and every participant.
Funding for the programme has been granted by Chelmsford City Council. Sarah Smith, Centre Manager at Chelmsford City Council, says: “Everybody has the right to lead an active lifestyle and our new Riverside Leisure Centre has been designed with accessibility for all in mind. Sport For Confidence helps us to provide something for a big group of people who may have faced difficulties engaging in activities in the past, and who will hugely gain from the many social, mental and physical advancements that sport and physical activity can bring to our lives.”
The programme will be running in the current Riverside Leisure Centre until the end of May and will transfer to the new building, which is being built right next door, in June. Until then, Sport For Confidence will run Basketball on a Wednesday, 2pm-3pm, Boccia on a Friday, 12pm-1pm and multisports on Friday, 2pm-3pm.
Megan, adds: “As the number of participants grows, we will expand the programme, introducing new sports and activities directly in line with the needs and preferences of those attending. Each Sport For Confidence programme works within a proven framework but has flexibility to adjust to local requirements, recognising that every community has bespoke needs.”