"It is so fulfilling to see first-hand the incredible work that goes on, and seeing the impact on the young people who need it most."

Access Sport has had five placement students as part of the team over the last nine months. They have made incredibly valuable contributions to our work including running sport sessions with young people, organising events and running social media campaigns. We are incredibly grateful for their contribution. Here is Tom Swinson’s story of his time with Access Sport.

My experience started with Access Sport when I was searching for a placement while at Bath University. I had coached at after school clubs as part of my DofE, and while at University I founded the Skateboard Society. I really enjoyed working with people and giving them new opportunities, especially in the skate society, where we had a huge female and ethnically diverse membership, and so Access Sport seemed like the perfect place to carry this on – as soon as I saw it I knew it was for me.

During my year, I have had so many opportunities to get involved with just about every corner of the charity. From chairing meetings to running volunteer days, creating media and branding or developing and delivering training to clubs looking to be more inclusive - this year has never been short of new things to try. Real highlights for me have been working on the ground at the sessions that Access Sport supports. It is so fulfilling to see first-hand the incredible work that goes on, and seeing the impact on the young people who need it most and have the most to gain really brings it home. Everyone involved with Access Sport is passionate and motivated – everyone from the coaches who deliver the sessions with a unique style that gets the most out of the young people they are working with, to the teachers and club leaders who selflessly search for opportunities for improvement in these people’s lives. This goes for my colleagues at Access Sport too – everyone is welcoming, determined and constantly pushing things forward to reach more people and have a bigger impact. It’s been an honour to be a part of something so special and pure – this is a charity that does everything for the right reasons.

Because Access Sport are so enthusiastic about making inclusion the norm in sport, they were keen to help me integrate my passion for skateboarding into my work here and helped facilitate me to set up a new skateboarding project. They put me through my Skateboard GB Level 1 Get Rolling coaching course, and the programme grew from there. Initially, it started out as a couple hours at a community event we were running at our Stockwood Bike Park, which was a huge success and garnered immediate interest for more – the kids loved it and the parents loved to see their kids engaged and trying something new. This led into running sessions a few Saturdays a month down at Stockwood, which grew and grew as we developed the sustainability of the site. Each weekend, new skaters came along, and some arrived with their own boards they had bought – this was a massive success and motivator. The whole aim was to get people physically active and skating, and seeing it work was fuel to the fire.

We then started to run the skate sessions in schools as part of an outreach programme, which was an even bigger success. Delivering the sessions in the most deprived areas of Bristol to kids who are under immense pressure meant that these young people could get the most out of skating. Skateboarding is an activity with so much to take away from it. Its more than just doing a trick – it’s a sense of freedom and self-expression. You can push yourself anywhere on a board, and you can do any trick any way you want to – it’s all in your hands. It’s an incredibly welcoming and supportive community, seen first-hand with the kids in the schools who were helping each other with tricks and skills when they were struggling. It teaches hardiness, problem solving and incredible resilience, and it’s been a real pleasure having the opportunity to start this programme and turn this passion into a real chance to help children and young people and to push skateboarding forward. Thank you Access Sport for supporting me on this!

An example of Tom’s impact on the local community:

Lily Mae is a year 5 pupil at Oasis Academy Bankleaze. She has a tough home life and has low self-confidence and anxiety as a result. At first, she was quiet and kept herself to herself, but was immediately engaged and from week one was determined to develop her skills – her progression from week to week was incredible. 

As the weeks went by, Lily-Mae found her voice, was actively engaged in discussions about the sessions and was helping out other students. She was much more confident in her ability at the end of the sessions, helping with demonstrations and always smiling when skating. 

"Her Mum rang the school after session 2 to tell us Lily has been practicing non stop at home. Today she skateboarded into school beaming as I watched her sail along the playground with her little sister chasing her. This is a total contrast to the way she usually enters school. (head down frowny face)." Teacher.

Skateboarding is a great activity for marginalised groups, especially girls and females, as it really empowers the skater and develops a real sense of self esteem, confidence and pride In yourself.  

Read more about Tom’s skateboarding work:
Inclusive Skateboarding with Bankleaze School