Novus and England Squash serve up successful initiative at Rainsbrook
Novus teamed up with England Squash to deliver a highly successful new initiative at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Warwickshire.
England Squash provided playing equipment along with training for youth workers at Rainsbrook, which in turn allowed them to cater for a growing love for the sport at the centre.
James Thomas, Sport and Enrichment Coordinator for Novus, which delivers education, rehabilitation support and opportunity to 60,000 adults and young people across England and Wales, explained how the initiative first came about – and how it subsequently developed.
“Sport is a great way to engage young people who may have struggled in the past. It also helps to build their confidence, communication, teamwork and life skills – which will help them integrate back into their communities,” he said.
“Our youth workers at Rainsbrook offered a variety of activities based on the needs and wants of the young people at the centre.
“They started playing a game of squash using a tennis racket without knowing the rules. The learners did not necessarily know they were playing squash but enjoyed the game.”
“They were mainly hitting a tennis ball on the wall,” explained Neelam Raju, Novus’ Curriculum Manager at the centre.
“Young people at Rainsbrook had not experienced playing squash before. Once the youth workers started to explain the game and improvise with tennis rackets and tennis balls, many young people showed an interest.”
Having discussed the feedback from his colleagues delivering the activities at Rainsbrook, James got in touch with England Squash to see if a relationship could be formed, and the result was a very successful partnership.
“I contacted England Squash to see if we could forge a partnership. They were really pleased the sport was being played at the centre. England Squash were able to supply Novus with squash equipment as well as training for our staff to make sure that squash is sustainable at the centre.”
Joanna Rowbottom, Partnerships and Communities Manager at England Squash, was more than happy to lend a helping hand.
“When we were initially contacted by James, we were delighted to hear that squash was so popular at Rainsbrook,” she explained.
“Often squash is seen as a sport that can only be played on a squash court, but we’re particularly keen to reach new audiences and see the sport being played in different environments.
“It’s has been fantastic to be able to support this programme which reaches young people who might not typically have the chance to play squash or have heard of the sport.”
Squash is part of the Rainsbrook’s enrichment timetable and PE curriculum, and has proved a popular hit with the young people on site.
“Every unit is offered the opportunity to play squash weekly. Squash is played weekly in PE, all young people in the centre have an opportunity to practice their skills,” said Neelam.
“To date and since we started to deliver squash with the given equipment, 20 young people have actively participated through PE and Enrichment. Young people can request to play squash also on a daily basis.”
Unfortunately, the initiative is currently on hold due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but the young people on site have been able to maintain their squash skills within the rules of social distancing:
“During COVID-19, squash has been offered as an enrichment/practical activity to support the wellbeing of the young people,” explained Neelam, who added: “two young people are offered squash at a time.”
Squash has certainly been a hit at the centre thanks to the partnership between the organisations driving forward the initiative:
“This shows the importance of collaborative working between different partners to share best practice and forge long-term lasting relationships, said James.
“Offering learners new opportunities and experiences that they have not had before can have a huge impact. We have exposed a group of young people to squash and this could have a huge positive influence on their future.
“I would also like to highlight the amazing work of our youth workers, working with young people within the secure estate and the massive influence they can have.
Neelam added: “Bringing Squash to Rainsbrook not only supported our vulnerable children with learning a new sport, it also supports with their wellbeing and learning new skills such as fair play.
“Overall, squash is a sport and enrichment that we are keen to grow here at Rainsbrook with the continued support of England Squash.”
England Squash, meanwhile, are keen to develop the programme further, having learned a lot from the initiative at Rainsbrook.
“From this project we have learnt more about what these young people think about squash, why they enjoy it and the impact it has had for them in these areas,” said Joanna.
“We have also learnt about how to support those working with those young people to deliver squash activities. We’re excited to continue to develop this programme at Rainsbrook and apply to learnings in other similar environment to grow this project and engage more young people in squash.”
Alliance of Sport COO and co-founder Justin Coleman said: “Over the past two decades, I have been involved with and using Sport and Physical Activity to further aid rehabilitation in, around and through the Criminal Justice System (CJS).
“No matter the age, the stage or phase of the CJS – there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a person enjoying the learning of a new Sport or Phyical Activity and sparking a new interest and healthy obsession.
“Rainsbrook STC, England Squash and Novus have enabled this, and shown that Partnership is key. This action has directly and proactively supported young people through a very challenging time and is a perfect example of why Sport and Physical Activity must be an essential part of all rehabilitation in whatever the new normal is going to be over the next few years.”
Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), run by MTC, is one of three purpose-built centres designed to accommodate up to 76 male and female young people between the ages of 12 and 18 who are either serving a custodial sentence or are remanded to a secure facility.