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Gail Emms talks school sport

August 25, 2010

The Sainsbury’s UK School Games will take place in September, seeking to encourage more young people to take part and succeed in sport. British badminton player Gail Emms MBE is a Youth Sport Trust Ambassador, and is passionate about the charity’s aims.

Gail-EmmsAlready an ambassador for Badminton, Gail’s sporting achievements include being number one in the world at mixed doubles, All England Champion, Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist. Born into a sporting family, Gail began playing badminton at the age of four. But Gail attributes her undeniable international success to her experiences at school.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for school sports. I didn’t actually play that much badminton at school, but teamwork, challenging yourself, being the best you can be and self-confidence are all things I learnt from school sports.”

Emms is a leading figure of the Youth Sport Trust, an independent charity with a mission to build a brighter future for young people through sport. But Emms believes it is not just the facilities that matter, but the attitude of those teaching the sport.

“If I could click my fingers and have a magic wish I’d have every school having amazing facilities and all the equipment needed to do many different activities. Unfortunately I can’t! So I would say if you don’t have the facilities it doesn’t matter.  It’s about the passion and enthusiasm and the people involved, and if you’ve got that then anything is possible.”

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Gail Emms chats to Sportsister
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Emms, who has now hung up her racket, believes that mentors such as herself are essential for keeping school sports alive.

“Personally I think that as a young person, role models are so important, and it can be the difference between someone going for their goals or not”.

A challenge for the Youth Sport Trust is encouraging more young girls to be enthusiastic about sport. Gail believes that the biggest barrier for teenage girls to overcome is being self-conscious about their bodies.

“It’s amazing how at schools now the girls are wearing tracksuit bottoms because they don’t like their legs, and they are 12 years old! I’m thinking ‘no’! They have body hang-ups that they really shouldn’t have.”

The Youth Sport Trust have developed a programme called GirlsActive, which is designed to empower teenage girls to enjoy more sporting activity on their own terms. Gail argues that listening to the girls is the solution to the problem.

“You can’t say to a girl, ‘don’t be stupid, take your tracksuit bottoms off’. You are going to make that girl feel worse. Why not say ‘ok, leave your tracksuit bottoms on and let’s see what we can do’. It’s imagination and passion and the right teaching that makes things happen.”

The concerns for youth sport have now become even more important to Gail, since she gave birth to her first child earlier this year. But is adamant that whilst she wants her son to have as many sporting opportunities as possible, she will not be pushing him toward badminton.

“I don’t want to enforce him to be a badminton player, I think there will be too much pressure on him anyway.

I want as a mum to give my son amazing opportunities, and if I have done that then I’ve done my part!”

Chloe Hibbert, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Gail Emms was speaking ahead of the Sainsbury’s UK School Games which take place in
Gateshead, Sunderland and Newcastle, September 2-5. For more information visit
ukschoolgames.com

Gail Emms was speaking ahead of the Sainsbury’s UK School Games which take place in Gateshead, Sunderland and Newcastle, September 2-5. For more information visit ukschoolgames.com

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