Glasgow has hosted its fair share of sport extravaganzas, from the 2014 Commonwealth Games to this summer’s European Championships. On each occasion, between the fireworks displays and gazebo-lined pop-up venues, there is talk of how these sporting legacies will benefit Glasgow in years to come.
One example of how this came to fruition can be found at Movement Park, a South Street charity which fuses sport, community and equality of opportunity.
Teaching fundamental movement skills is at the core of the charity’s mission. Offering a carefully curated range of activities for a flat rate of £20 per month, the team behind the centre encourages families to bring their children to as many different sessions as they like. With a programme spanning across judo, parkour, skateboarding, dance, yoga and more, the ethos at the heart of the charity’s work is that its value is in the sum of the activities’ parts – physical literacy is their focus, with a view to building their own legacy of a healthy, active community.
‘The average drop-off rate in sport is usually between ages 10 and 12, and that’s generally because kids don’t think they’re good at things,’ says Movement Park convenor Stephen Somerville, who co-founded the centre with two fellow judo players. ‘When we come to the sport-specific stuff they think oh, I can’t do that properly. So we try to build the confidence which will hopefully make them more motivated to participate on a longer term.’
Stephen explains that despite the vast array of activities on offer, each is selected with all-round competency in mind. ‘It’s not about parkour or judo – it’s about them all coming together and creating a safe place for kids to feel like they can try. It’s building for the future.’
With an understanding of how a disadvantaged background can affect ones relationship with – and access to – good quality sports training, the charity not only keeps its prices low but makes itself as accessible to the surrounding community as possible. ‘Sometimes a governing body can’t dig far enough into the social issues at play, whereas charities like us can go a wee bit deeper,’ says Stephen. The team works closely with local primary schools, providing PE lessons and encouraging free play as a form of learning.
Movement Park is also an inclusion hub, having adapted to the needs of children with disabilities. There are currently 13 visually impaired children enrolled in the judo club, but the charity’s accommodations for them go well beyond the walls of the converted warehouse in which it’s based. Stephen explains, ‘We put a big focus on independence training – we look at where the kids stay and how to get them here. So we have a buddy system, meaning someone will go and meet them at Central Station, bring them to Movement Park and then take them back.
He adds, ‘What you see when you work with kids with visual impairment is that they think they’re independent – but only when they get here. This means that when they leave school, they drop out of their activities. We’re trying to prevent that. Being on the mat is only a small part of the programme.’
The centre also offers an art room and a Lego room, which Stephen points out have proven particularly valuable when engaging children with autism. Movement Park ‘comes at the kids from all angles’, promoting creative thinking and imaginative play as part of a child’s overall wellbeing.
That element of mental wellbeing was also taken into account when the charity turned their focus to urban sports like parkour and skateboarding. ‘There’s something very interesting about them,’ the charity convenor notes. ‘In traditional sports, you’re either winning or losing. You deem yourself good or bad depending on how you do against your opponent.
‘In urban sports, you can take part and you can stand at the side with all the gear on and be part of the gang. It has ties to music and art, and you can be a part of it without sacrificing yourself on every turn. It’s more of a show rather than a competition. Urban sport is a lot more culture-based – at the heart of it, you’re just hanging about with your pals.’
Moving forward, the charity hopes to attract volunteers and sponsors who share their core values – as well as increasing their register of 140 members, with another hundred attending on a pay-as-you-go basis. The real proof will be in years to come, however, when the charity hopes to see an uptick in healthy habits being passed on through families who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to learn the necessary skills.
‘I’ll say it again – we’re all about building confidence and competence,’ Stephen concludes. ‘Movement Park is a one-stop shop for making movement matter.’