The Race Is on to Find the Olympians of the Future; in Association with the NHS A Tyneside Sports Partnership Is Hoping the Olympics Will Have Inspired More People to Get Active. ALICE VINCENT Finds out If the Excitement of the Beijing Games Has Encouraged People to Go for Gold with Their Health

Article excerpt

Byline: ALICE VINCENT

FOR the last few weeks a variety of sports have been showcased on television as the Olympics has been in full swing.

And Tyne & Wear Sport is anticipating an increase in sporting interest among youngsters due to the excitement over what has been beamed out from Beijing.

At present, a mere 23.4% of men and 12.5% of women take part in physical activity regularly.

Tyne & Wear Sport works with councils, universities, colleges and sports clubs to encourage physical activity.

Jamie Scott, 47, from Morpeth, is its regional coach for pole vault. He's been coaching at Gateshead for the last seven years and really enjoys it.

He said: "The two most rewarding things are to help people improve and see them achieve."

All coaches with local sports clubs are volunteers, taking time out of their day jobs to encourage success in young people.

Stephen Parr, who's an engineer by day, has an active role within athletics club Gateshead Harriers.

As well as coaching the under-11s athletics club, he trains over-16s in middle-distance running. He said he coaches to give back what he gained as a child.

"If we didn't have volunteer coaches then the youngsters don't have the opportunity to get involved," he said.

Although the Harriers currently have 500 participants, the need for new people to get involved is really felt.

There are 25,000 16-year-olds who drop out of sport each year. Jamie's daughter Sally, Mr Scott's daughter, is a keen athlete and all too aware of the distractions young people face from sport.

The 17-year-old said: "Nonsporting people my age see sport as something they'd rather not do. They feel that it would distract them from their social lives and they would rather go out with their mates.

"By getting involved in sport, I think they feel they might miss out on other aspects of life.

"They're wrong, though. I have a great social life within my sporting group and sport gives me something extra. Rather than missing out on one life for another, you actually benefit from two separate ones."

Sally is the kind of girl they could do with more of at Harriers - hugely determined and passionate about what she does.

She first started karate at the age of six. After gaining her black belt by the age of 12, she found athletics and has been competing in the pole vault for the last four years with the Harriers.

She said the pole vault is unlike any other sport she's tried.

"It's an amazing feeling when you vault," she said. "It's so exciting. Every time it feels different and it makes it addictive.

"I don't pole vault to keep fit, it's just something that comes with it. …

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