Milton Keynes isn’t short of exciting sports activities; you can try ice skating, skiing, skydiving or sailing. There’s rock climbing, treetop adventures, trampolining and a wide range of sports clubs. With so many opportunities to get active, this sounds like the perfect place for young people to grow up, but that’s not always the case.

What’s preventing young people from being active?

The common factor with all the activities mentioned above is a high price tag and for many families, the cost is a barrier. Look up free or low-cost activities and the options are limited to visiting the parks and lakes. They are beautiful, but don’t have the draw or ‘give it a go’ challenge that develops young people’s skills and interests.

The other issue is transport. Milton Keynes is an expansive city, so it’s great if you live near the centre or close to one of the leisure centres, but not everyone does. It can take several different buses to get from one place to another.

MK Movers’ research identified that 20% of the young people surveyed lacked the confidence to try new things. The thought of joining a club or travelling to a new place made them feel anxious. This is even though 43.8% stated that they would like to do more physical activity.

Finally, young people and their parents aren’t fully aware of what is available. There could be free events and local opportunities, but they don’t know where to look to find out about them.

MK Movers aims to break down some of these barriers. Their focus is to address inequalities and enable more under-represented young people to try something new. Let us tell you how!

What is MK Movers?

MK Movers is a collaboration of local delivery partners with a shared vision; we believe all young people should have opportunities to get active. We know that fun physical activity and social interaction improve confidence, self-esteem, health and well-being and life skills, so no one should miss out.

Leap has invested in an MK Movers lead, Portia Simond, to drive the project forward and collaborate with local MK Movers partners.

One of the first tasks for Portia was to find community-based delivery partners who were willing to co-design and collaborate on MK Movers. Together, they needed to explore ways to tackle inequalities and make sports more accessible to all. She has found a team of like-minded coaches and together, they are on a mission to encourage every young person to have the opportunity to try something new.

Kickstarting the programme are Safari MMA, Paramount Parkour, MK Basketball, All People Active, 5 on It and Leap. By connecting and working together, they are better able to provide opportunities that capture the interest, and willingness to participate, of inactive young people.

As the project evolves, it is hoped that other Milton Keynes-based organisations will join this partnership, recognising the benefits of collaboration. These include shared marketing, resources and an increase in attendee numbers. It’s also about boosting activities and opportunities for young people across the city. Get in touch to find out more!

What do young people want?

Before starting any activity plans, MK Movers were keen to discover what appeals to young people and what barriers needed to be overcome. Making great use of their collective local contacts, MK Movers created and shared a Youth Voice project. All felt it was important to hear the thoughts of under-represented groups, so they actively worked to reach inactive, SEN and under-privileged individuals.

One of the project’s early achievements was receiving over 200 responses from young people across the city. This provided valuable insight which is informing decisions going forward.

What difference can MK Movers make?

We have several plans are in development.

Community-based Sports Showcase

Firstly, MK Movers are collaborating on ways to bring ‘give it a go’ sports to places where young people hang out. Midsummer Boulevard is a proposed destination for a 2023 showcase that could invite passing youngsters to try boxing, martial arts moves and more.

By removing the need to visit a club or commit to a full session, we hope to break down some of the anxiety and transportation issues that hinder participation. If successful, this could be rolled out in some of the estates across the city, making it a truly community-based initiative.

The joined-up provision also enables resource efficiency for each partner. By sharing equipment and coaches, we increase the viability of fresh ideas and approaches.

Addressing affordability

To address affordability, some delivery partners have agreed to offer a free trial session for new participants. This provides a chance to see if they enjoy the activity before joining a club. All People Active and 5 on It have also been actively applying for funding which could make ongoing sessions more affordable.

Portia is also approaching organisations that might be able to offer support. This could be in the form of free or low-cost venues for sessions. She’s also on the hunt for other delivery partners with shared values and a willingness to get involved.

An online platform to promote sessions

We are also exploring options for an MK Movers online platform to provide one place where it is easy to find out what activities are on offer and when special events are running. The aim is that all MK Movers delivery partners could list their sessions on the site, with links to their websites for further information.

Acknowledging small successes

Every MK Movers partner agrees that making activities fun is more important than perfecting techniques. This isn’t about developing sports professionals, it’s about encouraging movement, participation and positivity. If the young people enjoy a session, they are more likely to come back for more.

A fun environment is created when people feel welcome, unpressured and encouraged. Those small achievements matter. It might be a good catch of the basketball, an energised high kick in martial arts or encouraging words to someone else who is about the take their first big parkour jump.  Acknowledging the skills we see, is an important step in making a difference to the lives of young people.

Considering new activities

Sometimes young people have had a negative experience which puts them off a particular sport. Therefore, providing new activities can be a way to attract their interest. We’re exploring options that young people aren’t taught at school, including archery and pickleball, a cross between badminton and tennis.

MK Movers 2023

Through 2022, MK Movers has been researching, connecting and planning. We are now putting our plans into action for 2023 and look forward to levelling up the opportunities for active participation. We’ll keep you posted with updates!

If your organisation would like to get involved in MK Movers as a delivery partner, please see here  get in touch for further information.