From dance charities and diving clubs to esports and dog walking, the full breadth of grassroots sport and recreation will be celebrated at our online ceremony on Thursday 11 March.
We have introduced three new award categories this year – the Resilience in Adversity Award, Sustainable Programme Award and Diversity and Inclusion Award – to go alongside our regular Mental Health and Wellbeing and Youth Development Awards.
Find out more about who is in contention for each accolade.
Resilience in Adversity Award
Like so many, the home of the City of Sheffield Diving Club, Ponds Forge Sports Centre was forced to close its doors in March 2020. Due to a lack of council funding, the facility didn’t open again until the end of October, more than seven months later, and now finds itself shut once more.
Thanks to the extraordinary work of the club’s coaches, its members were able to keep active away from the water by taking part in a wide range of activities, including daily online workouts, two six-week courses of ballet and yoga classes, talent contests and weekly diver challenges.
Everything was free of charge and even friends and family could join the fun, helping as many people as possible continue to connect with one another through sport.
Founded in 2010, Move it or Lose it aims to improve the fitness of people in later life, with a network of instructors delivering exercise classes to thousands of older people across the country.
During the coronavirus pandemic, they took their programme a step further by launching The Move it or Lose it Club, with the help of funding from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund.
The Club runs live exercise classes, health related discussions, an art book club, cooking demonstrations and on-demand exercise videos in ballet, jazz dance and fitness.
To help participants remain engaged, they built in a social network to allow people to chat, share stories and stay connected. For those who couldn’t get online, they provided support with phone calls from instructors and gave away a number of free exercise books and resistance bands.
The Nottingham School of Boxing is about so much more than just taking to the ring. Participants are provided with a safe, inclusive training environment where they can develop essential life skills such as discipline, resilience and respect through the power of sport.
Retaining engagement opportunities for its community during Covid-19 was vital for the club, whose members primarily reside in less affluent areas where access to space and facilities to exercise is limited.
They immediately responded by setting up six daily boxing sessions per week on Facebook that were accessible and inclusive for all. All known vulnerable members were contacted directly within the first week of lockdown and attributed coach and mentor contact numbers to help guide them through the pandemic.
In June, their sister charity, Switch Up, arranged for weekly food packages to be delivered to vulnerable families and the school continues to support those most in need more than eight months down the line.
Diversity and Inclusion Award
With 89% of the blind and partially sighted community classed as inactive in the UK, Goalball UK has been instrumental in creating opportunities for these people to be active.
Domestically, 128 teams entered Goalball UK tournaments in 2018/19 (the last full season that was played because of the pandemic) over three levels - novice, intermediate and elite - from 25 clubs. This equalled 722 blind and partially sighted players, plus many more that just attend training sessions across the country.
The charity found that visually impaired people that play goalball are 47% more likely to be in employment than those that do not, demonstrating the significant role the sport plays in helping individuals achieve broader outcomes.
The entire team at Goalball UK undertook Mental Health First Aid training in lockdown to allow delivery staff to provide support to those members of the community who identified as being vulnerable.
Furthermore, to ensure those from low income backgrounds can still participate in the sport, Goalball UK does not charge any membership fees so barriers to play are significantly minimised.
Of the many fantastic initiatives that British Canoeing runs, its #ShePaddles programme is one that continues to lead the way.
The initiative consists of a number of projects and opportunities which engage female paddlers and improve the provision, environment and opportunities for progression within the sport.
One such project is the #ShePaddles Club Champion scheme which seeks to develop 100 women and girls, specifically from low socio-economic backgrounds, in clubs as Paddlesport Instructors. They, in turn, become role models for future paddlers.
British Canoeing has removed all monetary barriers to being part of the project, targeted clubs near cities and opened it up to participants without any previous experience in order to encourage those who may not feel paddling was usually accessible to them to get involved in the sport.
Synergy Dance Outreach was created to positively engage those who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) with sport and physical activity through accessible and innovative dance, fitness and yoga related activities.
Over the past 18 months, the charity has welcomed more than 10,000 people to its classes and events, helping to provide those with SEND with the same opportunities to get active as the non-disabled community.
Many of their beneficiary groups lead more sedentary lives than their non-disabled peers and feel more socially isolated but are offered a lifeline in the form of these subsidised or free classes.
Synergy also runs a Fun In The School Holidays (FISH) scheme which supports 600 10-16 year olds annually, with 60% of participants being from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Award
Moving Forces provides free sport and physical activity sessions for military veterans, serving personnel and military families, with a focus on improving physical health and fitness, but also mental wellbeing and social connectivity.
Since launching in 2018, the programme has engaged with around 500 participants through activities such as football, tai chi, kayaking and climbing.
With almost 40% of veterans signed-up to the programme living with a mental or physical condition/illness, Moving Forces has been a vital platform in helping more people to open up, seek help but most importantly, feel both mentally and physically well.
In a recent evaluation of the programme, participants reported an average increase of 38% in weekly activity levels and 81% of participants reported that Moving Forces had had a positive effect on their wellbeing.
Active Cheshire and Age UK Cheshire recently developed Walkeez, a Lottery funded, Tackling Inequalities project, that aims to reduce loneliness and anxiety through the introduction of regular, tailored walks and talks with a dog.
The idea behind the initiative is to get vulnerable, isolated individuals who have been severely impacted by Covid-19 active and out of an environment where they have felt isolated for so long.
The weekly dog walking sessions provide older people and people with dementia with regular exercise and the opportunity to share similar experiences about how the pandemic has affected their lives.
The project is now continuing with 21 volunteers who have been inspired by the pilot and there are plans to replicate the project in other areas of high deprivation such as Crewe and Winsford.
Working predominantly within hard to reach communities, Exim Dance Company provides high quality dance wellbeing opportunities to ‘at risk’ young people.
Prior to Covid-19, they were delivering 27 weekly sessions across community, professional and educational settings to more than 500 people per week.This fantastic work continued throughout the pandemic, with the charity delivering over 210 live and pre-recorded sessions to almost 460,000 screens.
Following their dance and wellbeing support programmes, 74.6% of participants have noted improved confidence, 83.3% have improved physical health, 86.1% have improved emotional well-being and 60.3% have increased aspirations.
Youth Development Award
Over the past 12 months, the British Esports Association has provided exceptional opportunities for young people to engage with sport in the digital world.
In May 2020, they launched the All-Star Showdown for Rocket League – a special competition for schools and colleges which was organised by the students themselves, providing valuable work experience and a space for young people to flex their creative muscles. This was then broadcasted for teams and fans to watch over a weekend at the end of the academic year.
Students and young people are also given opportunities to volunteer each year to help propel them into the esports industry. For the most part, this focuses on helping out with the Championships in the esports calendar but recently, they were given the chance to facilitate World Esports Day, a day for schools, clubs and esports organisations from across the world to celebrate all the sport has to offer whilst raising money for charities of their choice.
Greenhouse Sports exists to improve the life chances of young people in London’s most disadvantaged communities.
The charity offers a range of sporting activities that extend well beyond the school day and school week, providing young people with the chance to get active in the safe environment of a school as opposed to spending time in more precarious places or situations.
They work with schools in 17 of the capital’s boroughs and each partner school has a permanent coach to teach either table tennis, basketball, volleyball, tennis or multisports for SEND. These coaches are available six days of the week, from 7am until 6pm, and are there from Year 7 until children leave school.
Open to any student, their school programmes work around the clock, running breakfast, lunch and after school sport sessions, as well as one to one mentoring sessions for particularly vulnerable children.
With nearly 80% of participants from ethnically diverse communities, Greenhouse Sports is there to help bridge the sizable ethnicity gap in activity levels and offer these children the opportunity to take part in sport.
Since 2010, Freestyle Urban Soccer have delivered an average of 400 evening, weekend and holiday street soccer sessions every year, reaching more than 80,000 community members aged from just two years old to 75 years old.
Their free drop in sessions use Multi Use Games Areas and portable inflatable arenas to ensure that they can offer a range of sporting doorstep activities to community members at all levels and standards.
Accessibility has always been at the heart of what they do and during the coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to support people in Chorley by leaving free footballs in local parks so that families and young people passing through can enjoy a kick about – there’s just one rule, use it and leave it!