Active Communities, a Sport Northern Ireland Lottery Funded initiative, has won the UK Coaching Award’s prestigious UK Coaching Intervention of the Year award.

HRH Princess Royal presented the accolade at a ceremony in the Lancaster Hotel, London, on Tuesday (20 November).

Active Communities aims to increase participation in sport and physical recreation in communities throughout Northern Ireland and the award recognises the significant impact that Active Communities has made since it was launched in April 2010, providing:

  • 109 sports coaches in communities throughout Northern Ireland;
  • 117,000 hours of coaching in 40 different sports and activities; and
  • Opportunities for 150,000 people to take part in sport and physical recreation 1.6 million times.

Active Communities has a particular focus on encouraging under-represented groups to get involved, and stay involved, in sport and physical recreation. Accordingly, 88,000 females, 16,500 older people and 20,000 people with a disability have benefitted from participating in the programme.

The UK Coaching Awards are organised by Sports Coach UK and recognise the best coaches, and the best coaching programmes, at both participation and performance levels.

Accepting the award on behalf of Active Communities, Acting Chief Executive of Sport Northern Ireland, Nick Harkness, praised the efforts of all those involved:

“Active Communities is providing locally available and accessible opportunities for people to take part in sport and physical recreation, and is helping people to realise the health and social benefits associated with sport. The success of the project is the culmination of the efforts of many organisations and individuals including Sport Northern Ireland, the 26 district councils, governing bodies of sport, sports clubs, schools and an eclectic range of community and voluntary organisations.”

He continued “Most importantly, the success is the result of the hard work, skill and dedication of the 109 Active Communities Coaches who are providing quality experiences for people throughout Northern Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the contribution of all of the programme partners and the Active Communities Coaches in making Active Communities the most successful coaching intervention in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK.”

Mr Harkness was joined at the event by Active Communities Regional Manager, Jonathan Moffett, and Active Communities Rugby Coach, Stephen Marshall. Stephen started working as an Active Communities Coach in the North Down and Ards area in April 2010, and welcomed the opportunity to represent the programme.

“It is a great honour to represent North Down and Ards Borough Councils, the Active Communities Coaches and the wider Active Communities programme in accepting this award. Throughout my employment as an Active Communities Coach, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the other coaches and the many participants that I have provided rugby coaching for.

“Active Communities is reaching out to people who are not currently involved in sport, and to communities that have limited opportunities in relation to sport, and it is great to be a part of it. It is fantastic to be able to provide opportunities for females, people with a disability, young people and older people to take part in sport, and to play a part in improving the quality of life of many people through sport.”

Like Stephen, all of the Active Communities Coaches are providing opportunities for people to get involved in sport and physical recreation in school, club and community settings.

To find out more, or to get involved, email activecommunities@sportni.net or call Sport Northern Ireland on 028 9038 3203.