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County sports partnership's £500,000 boost

County sports partnership Energize Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin is looking forward to an exciting 2017 after enjoying one of its busiest and most successful years yet.

The expanding organisation, which has just taken on two new interns at its Shrewsbury headquarters, revamped its School Games county finals to take events to all corners of Shropshire for the first time in 2016.

It also celebrated the 10th anniversary of its community sport ‘Oscars’ with a glittering awards ceremony at Telford’s International Centre, where the legendary Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards was guest of honour.

And its involvement in the county’s first ever ‘Inclusive Sport and Activity Roadshow’, coming on the back of the Team GB and Paralympics GB gold medal rush at the Rio games, was a huge success.

Energize, based at The Guildhall in Frankwell Quay, promotes sport and active lifestyles, and believes there is an activity out there for everyone, whether they see themselves as ‘sporty’ or not.

Marketing manager Tamsin Foster said: “In the last year Energize has helped local schools, community groups and voluntary sports clubs to access more than half a million pounds of funding to put on new or improved activities.

“We have also organised two-day ‘Fundamentals and Aquatics Skills of School Swimming’ courses completed by 47 primary school staff, recruited and deployed some 60 people through our Volunteer Academy, and signed up a further 87 people through our successful ‘Women Make Coaching’ programme.

“It has been a very busy, but incredibly fulfilling year for the Energize team, and we’re looking forward to building on our achievements over the coming months.”

One of the biggest changes to the Energize programme in 2016 was a revamp of the Shropshire Homes School Games county finals, for secondary schools.

Instead of holding twice yearly events at Shrewsbury Sports Village, it was decided to stage six ‘mini festivals’ instead, giving other parts of Shropshire the chance to share in the action.

And so, for the 2016-17 academic year, there are two finals in Telford & Wrekin, with the remainder shared between Shrewsbury, Ellesmere, Church Stretton, and Much Wenlock.

The most recent finals were at Wrekin College in December, where the spotlight was on hockey, rugby and sportshall athletics, and pupils from 22 secondary schools took part.

Among the winning schools were Thomas Telford, Shrewsbury High and Shrewsbury Academy, Lacon Childe of Cleobury Mortimer, Lakelands of Ellesmere, The Corbet from Baschurch, Ercall Wood of Wellington, William Brookes from Much Wenlock, and Southall School from Telford.

Harry Cade, Youth Sports Manager at Energize, said: “The event went very well - Wrekin College were great hosts, and the facilities, staff and students involved with the event were brilliant. We’re very pleased with how the new-look Shropshire Homes School Games county finals have begun.

“During 2016, more than 3,200 schoolchildren took part in the School Games programme, with 362 young leaders and volunteers supporting the events.”

The highest profile event of Energize’s year was the 10th anniversary awards in November. The Energize Awards recognise those involved in grass-roots sport or physical activity – from teams and individuals, to the volunteers and coaches who keep groups and clubs alive.

Among the winners were Ellesmere Titans swimming club and its coach Alan Bircher, Andy Crozier from Lawley Running Club, Anna Overton of Bridgnorth Spartans FC, and Adam Summers from Astons Kickboxing Academy.

The Sports Performance of the Year prize, chosen after a vote by Shropshire Star website readers, went to Paralympic hero Nick Beighton, and the Outstanding Contribution award was won by Jane Barker, the driving force behind the Perry Riding & Driving Group.

And on the subject of awards . . . Energize also shared in the success of a Shropshire club which helps ex-offenders and at-risk members of society into sport and physical activity.

A football project at Willowdene, a community rehabilitation centre near Bridgnorth – set up as part of the satellite clubs programme and run by Shrewsbury Up And Comers football club - was voted the best satellite club in the West Midlands, by Sport England.

Joe Lockley, from Energize which helps to deliver the programme, said: “Football has been used to help these people understand values such as respect, and the participants have really bonded as a group.

“As a result, a lot of young men and women have now joined gyms, their local sports clubs or have been inspired to try something new.”

The first ever Inclusive Sport and Activity Roadshow was held across Shropshire in September as part of the Inclusively Fit project, where Energize is a key partner.

More than 80 sports and activities were offered by over 35 sports clubs and groups - from rowing in Shrewsbury to boxing in Albrighton, tai chi in Coalbrookdale and judo in Market Drayton, activities were laid on for people of all ages and abilities.

Telford, Shrewsbury, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Much Wenlock, Church Stretton, Newport, Pontesbury, Broseley, Bishop’s Castle, and Shifnal were among the towns and villages taking part.

Jessica Lightwood, Shropshire Inclusion Officer at Energize, said plans were already being drawn up to repeat it in 2017 “We were delighted at the way so many clubs and community groups got behind the concept of the roadshow, right across the county.

“The idea was to give taster sessions of what is available for people on their doorsteps on a regular basis, and we hope it will have encouraged many more people to build sport and exercise into their lives.

“With such a fantastic response from local clubs and groups, we hope to make this roadshow an annual event in our calendar.”

Energize also teamed up with the local authority, and Sport England, to organise a successful ‘Club Matters’ workshop at Telford Rugby Club, offering top tips on running a successful community sports club.

Ben Harper, senior sports manager at Energize, said: “It was a great success, and we are hoping to arrange more similar events over the coming months.

“Everyone who attended this workshop left with a better understanding of which structure is right for their club, to safeguard its future success and stability.”

Energize’s next big event is an ‘Active Places’ convention at University Centre Shrewsbury on February 1, which will be asking the question: “Are you making the most of your community venue or public green space?”

Helen White, business development officer at Energize, said: “Community buildings, village halls, parks and other green spaces all have the potential to be active places.

“This convention is designed to support organisations that have a responsibility for these places, or might be considering taking a responsibility for these kind of places in the future.

“The focus will be on sharing top tips and best practice, and learning from case studies from across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin.”

* To find out more about the work of Energize in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, or to book a place on the Active Places convention, call Helen White on 01743 297191, or see energizestw.org.uk.

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