Thousands more young people on the margins of society are to benefit from a programme that uses the power of sport to turn their lives around, thanks to National Lottery investment from Sport England.
Get on Track was set up by double Olympic gold medalist Kelly Holmes to help disadvantaged young people develop the skills and confidence to get their lives on track and find a job.
Get on Track’s many success stories include Andrew Lunnon from Reading. Born with Strabimus, an eye condition that leaves the sufferer with crossed eyes, Andrew was bullied from a young age and ended up dropping out of education.
Depressed and overweight, Andrew did not want to face the world before he got involved with the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. Andrew said: “I left school early with few friends, no qualifications and lacked confidence. When the chance came along to meet Dame Kelly, I was really excited but when I arrived I got really intimated by all the people wearing suits and decided to leave. If it hadn’t been for the mentors Neil (Danns) and Adam (Whitehead) convincing me to stay, I never would have gotten the confidence turn my life around and get my personal fitness qualification.”
His new found confidence and belief in himself allowed him to face the toughest challenge of his young life when he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in 2012. Andrew continues: “If it hadn’t been for this programme I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the tumour and subsequent operation with the same level of optimism and resilience I did.”
The operation not only removed the tumour, it also fixed the alignment issue in his right eye. Now 24, Andrew has fully recovered from surgery and has secured a coaching position with Reading FC as well as volunteering with the Trust to help others like him.
Many young people will now be able to follow in Andrew’s footsteps because, following a successful pilot, Sport England’s Board has approved £6.9 million of Lottery funding over four years to expand Get on Track’s work into some of the most disadvantaged communities across England.
Sport England Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said: “Andrew’s story is a great example of sport’s ability to improve lives. Through our support for Get on Track, we want to help many more young people to take charge of their lives and turn things around for the better.”
Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, said: “Sport can make a great contribution to young people’s lives – improving their health, well-being and confidence. The expansion of Dame Kelly Holmes’ ‘Get on Track’ will benefit young people up and down the country and give them a sense of direction and purpose.”
Get on Track uses sport and physical activity to engage young people aged between 16 and 25 alongside three months of intensive mentoring from world class athletes. With support from their mentors, the young people plan, develop and deliver volunteering projects in their local community.
Double Olympic gold medallist, Dame Kelly Holmes, said: “Thanks to the commitment and belief in the work of the DKH Legacy Trust by Sport England, my charity will be able to continue to help and support young people through our ‘Get on Track’ programme.
“I know first-hand just how much sport can turn your life round. If it hadn’t been for my PE teacher believing in and encouraging me I may never have ended up where I did. Through Get on Track I want to provide young people with the same support and encouragement to use sport to change their life for the better.”
By building their self-confidence, self-esteem and interpersonal skills, Get on Track helps young people get fit for work and a fit for life.
Since its launch, the project has supported 291 disadvantaged young people, with 241 of them completing the mentoring programme and graduating. Two-thirds of the young people - who were previously unemployed - have gone on to education, employment or training.
2,857 people in local communities have benefitted from the volunteering projects run by the young people.