London Sport Awards 2021 nominees: The Uniting London Award - London & SE Regional Netball Association/Met Police
A TRAILBLAZING partnership between the London & South East Regional Netball Association and the Metropolitan Police that gives young girls at risk of entering the justice system a taste of netball has been shortlisted for a prestigious London Sport Award.
It offers female Londoners, who predominantly have encountered the police in some form, a safe space to play netball and develop on and off the court.
In partnership with England Netball, alongside playing themselves, girls will also have the chance to interact with elite players and watch international matches as part of a year-long scheme that kicks off in January following a successful pilot day in June and taster session in October.
“The Met got in contact with us because they were really aware that they didn’t have many provisions for girls in the area - there is lots of sport for boys but not so much for girls,” explained Lucy Goodman, 30, London and the South East Regional Coordinator for England Netball.
“We expose girls to netball and blend it with a mixture of police-centred activities in a safe and inclusive environment for young girls and empower them to live out the skills and attributes that netball embodies both on and off the court.
“Projects like these are incredibly important, it’s female-centred and is a safe space for young girls who may be at risk of entering the justice system or gang grooming - it is something specifically for them.
“We want to be able to provide them with positive activities to put their energy in to and the opportunity to make friends with girls with really diverse and different life experiences to them and crucially working on breaking down barriers between the Metropolitan Police and young girls.”
Over the last five years, the annual London Sport Awards, in association with the City of London Corporation, has grown to become the biggest celebration of grassroots and community physical activity and sport in the city.
And this year’s showpiece event will once again recognise, celebrate, and shine a light on the stories of the incredible individuals, groups and organisations for their outstanding work across the capital helping Londoners of all ages and backgrounds to be physically active.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the pilot event earlier this year kickstarted the exciting new partnership as 94 per cent of those who took part said they intended to continue playing netball and 100 per cent described their experience with the police at the event as positive.
“The key factor in putting this project together was to build trust in the police, it’s something I’m really passionate about as a youth engagement officer,” added PC Emma Simms, 33, who will discover if she is a winner at the eagerly-anticipated awards ceremony at the historic Guildhall on December 6.
“It’s important to work towards coming together as a community together with the police to give a fun experience to young girls.
“A lot of the officers get involved in the training and the games and they can all play together.
“It was amazing to be nominated for the award and to have something we’ve created for these young people recognised.”
Coulsdon College student Paige Brown, 16, is a big fan of the netball sessions and believes many of the girls thrive in the female-only atmosphere.
“It being just girls, sometimes certain females feel like ‘oh boys are here, I need to act a certain way or dress a certain way’, or just not feel comfortable at all,” she said.
“So, when it’s all females and all your own gender, you feel a lot more comfortable and willing to participate and you don’t have to worry or feel judged as much.”
Words: Josh Graham (Sportsbeat)