Black History Month: getting people active

We're celebrating Black History Month by showcasing two projects helping people be active

23 November 2016

"I don’t feel under pressure – it’s OK if I drop the ball," says Danielle Allen as she gets ready to head out for her next netball session.

The 22-year-old is perhaps not your typical netball player.

She found going to the gym "boring", doesn’t like the competitive element of sport, and has a full-time job.

But the Sports Key Netball sessions, backed by charity Sporting Equals – which promotes ethnic diversity in sport and physical activity – turned out to be the perfect fit.

"I wanted to do something that was fun while I was exercising," says Danielle. "Going somewhere competitive wouldn’t have been so enjoyable."

The sessions have been set up for women and girls predominantly from black African and Caribbean backgrounds in Birmingham, to help them become active.

I didn’t do any kind of fitness at all. I don’t like going to the gym.

Michelle Smith

One woman who had been inactive for years is mum Michelle Smith.

"I haven’t been involved in sport for a long time," says the 48-year-old.

"With a family, I felt outside of that world.

"I didn’t do any kind of fitness at all and I don’t like going to the gym."

Sports Key Netball session participants

But after hearing about the Sports Key Netball sessions, Michelle decided to give it a go and she hasn’t looked back.

30 of 50 netball participants are still playing

"There are people of different abilities and different ages, she says. "There’s no pressure. That’s what I like most about it."

"If you’re not at a high calibre, it doesn’t really matter.

"The coach and the organisers make that clear – that it's more about enjoying and getting some exercise."

And with a note to others who might have trepidation about trying an activity, she says: “The hardest part is getting started, but once you do, you'll come back time and time again."

The sessions have been so popular they’ve just started up again after a break – now increased to 90 minutes because of popular demand.

Mini tennis

Another Sporting Equals-supported project is the Dery Foundation’s tennis sessions.

The Somali immigrant community is one of the largest immigrant populations in Birmingham, and the Foundation’s project aimed to reach out to them.

Teaming up with the Tennis Foundation, mini tennis nets were erected in local parks for women and girls from the community.

The Dery Foundation’s Shukri Mohammed, who led the project, says: "The tennis equipment and training has been a brilliant tool to engage families and the passing public at the local park.

"Families who had previously never spoken to each other before are now interacting with each other through tennis.

"We even have people giving us their contact numbers so we can contact them to join in whenever we set up our tennis sessions."