Grace Balsdon, England Hockey player on behalf of TeamUp:
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the London Sport Awards held at Wembley Stadium. Having been in the fortunate position to be a part of the judging panel, it was great to attend the awards ceremony itself and present the Club of the Year Award alongside Leon Mann.
The atmosphere was fantastic and to be surrounded by so many people who contribute to the brilliant sporting environment in London reinforced the significance of sport in the community and society in general.
It is essential organisations do their bit to promote equal opportunities and access in sport and ensure their offering is as diverse as possible. I was at the London Sport Awards on behalf of TeamUp, a fantastic initiative which is doing just that.
TeamUp is a joint initiative launched in 2016 by the England & Wales Cricket Board, England Hockey and England Netball. Its goal is to maximise the legacy of three consecutive home women’s World Cups between 2017-2019, ensure that thousands of seven to 13-year-old girls across the country have the chance to play team sports and increase the number of people watching and supporting women’s sport.
The initiative also provides teachers with the training and tools to deliver high quality team sports for girls. For all schools participating, TeamUp includes a novel rewards scheme and access to training, support, resources and money can’t buy prizes.
Some of the prizes schools have received have been once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and something that I would have loved as a pupil growing up. Athletes from all the three sports have worked with schools to deliver cricket, hockey and netball sessions. Schools have also been lucky enough to receive free tickets to international and domestic matches. Hopefully prizes such as these will help to inspire the younger generation and encourage them to take up or continue playing team sports.
Although TeamUp is a nationwide initiative, it received a significant boost in London last year with Wembley National Stadium Trust investing significant funding into the scheme to provide local delivery support.
The extra funding will help scale up the great work the initiative is already doing in London. I’m told that 248 schools have signed up in London alone, with around 24,000 girls benefitting from TeamUp. To sign up and apply for support from the three NGBs, head to www.teamupengland.com.
I’m excited to see the impact of TeamUp continue to grow and I think us players can do our part to help, starting by trying to be as successful and inspirational as possible in upcoming tournaments. In April, both our hockey and netball teams will be going for gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, with the 2018 Vitality Hockey World Cup in London following shortly after this July and August. We’re really hoping we can emulate the success of the cricket team who won the Cricket World Cup last summer and inspire thousands of women and girls. I hope that girls across the country will see and hear about the collective achievements in women’ sport and believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to chasing their dreams.