Each Active Leaders course has a “heart-stopping” moment. This is when tens of enthusiastic, smiling children run towards our Active Leaders (who are aged around 15-17). You see a mix of reactions. Some of our participants retreat, others step forward. Some are confident, others less so. It is a defining moment, when our Active Leaders start the crux of our course: running activities for children.
Prior to being greeted by the children, participants spend their time understanding what it takes to be an Active Leader. They learn how the how the course can be relevant to their future, whatever they choose to do.
Practically, they are taught safeguarding and basic first aid in a hands-on way, as well as how to run an activity session. They are given the room to make their own decisions and plan for the moment when they meet the children. They are given a guiding hand to move outside their comfort zones. They create activities and practice and prepare. Invariably, everything runs smoothly on paper.
However, that moment isn’t on paper. The real world is where the real learning begins. So, our Active Leaders start leading the children and running activities. They work together, rely on each other’s strengths, help the children have fun, enjoy activity and ensure everyone is included.
I believe that working with children is one of the ultimate tests a young person can experience. Children don’t mince their words, they present problems from leftfield and their behaviour is unscripted. Dealing with them requires clear communication, patience and self-control – skills that need to be developed and honed.
These are skills that are obviously applicable beyond our course. They are relevant to the workplace and higher education, they help young people grow and develop at a crucial point in their lives.
Not just about sport
That ‘moment’ is not intended test an Active Leader’s sporting ability. Our most successful students are often not at all sporty or super-fit – but they have all been willing to give the Active Leader course a go.
As the course progresses, our Active Leaders grow, learn and adjust, they deliver increasingly practical sessions and even create a mini event. They develop an entirely new skillset which sticks with them for far longer than our five days together. They also remember the joy of sport and activity.
This is one of the most heartening aspects of what we do. Re-engaging with sport at this age is vital. It is when habits and passions start to become embedded. Many of our Active Leader graduates have returned to activity – I am confident that these young people will continue their activity into adult life, even as they enter offices and boardrooms.
This brings me to a conversation I recently had with an HR director. She recognised that the skills we nurture are invaluable and she reinforced the value of activity and physical fitness to employers. Active employees are less likely to take costly sick days and are more likely to be happier and productive – essential for employers!
Active Leaders is effective work experience and a step towards first employment. It develops communication skills, responsibility and leadership. It does not judge whether you can throw, kick or catch a ball. Our course is open to all young people, regardless of ability, because the ‘moment’ doesn’t care about how far you run or how fast you swim – it cares about your character.
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