17 August 2015

Since November 2014, YMCA St Paul’s Group (YMCA LSW) has been responsible for putting in place a fully inclusive community fitness programme at St Marks Church of England Academy, Mitcham, as part of the Sports Blast Family Hub. Our programme included:

  • Individual 12 week intense fitness programme
  • 5 individual appointments
  • Heavily discounted rates on other fitness activities during this period
  • Ongoing support once the initial programme had finished

The target age group for YMCA LSW was 14 years and older, with the aim of getting 300 unique participants through the doors during year one (2014-2015), by providing free programmes and fitness activities.

The project’s main objective

The main objective of the project was to contribute towards bridging the gap between the most affluent and the most deprived areas of the Merton borough.  The gaps to be bridged relate to opportunities available to participate in sport and fitness (both in relation to ethnicity and ability); lifestyle and quality of health; community participation in sport and fitness; community ethos; and incidents of anti-social behaviour.

The project aims to:

Give every child a healthy start:

  • Family fitness classes would be available on Saturday mornings.
  • Classes would be led by a fitness professional giving the whole family an opportunity to play together and learn new games, thus helping children get the best possible, healthy start in life.

Support people to improve their health and wellbeing:

  • In addition to the family classes, 2 exercise classes for our target group would take place on weekday evenings, as well as limited access to a community gym, which we would establish on site.
  • As more individuals would attend on a regular basis to participate in the programmes, appointments and classes, their fitness levels would increase and in conjunction with a positive attitude towards fitness. In turn, this would lead to new participants engaging with the services provided.

Enable people to manage their own health and wellbeing as independently as possible:

  • We would provide activities for all ethnicities, abilities and ages. Our fitness programmes would provide individuals with tool to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, as well as the confidence to do so.

Improve wellbeing, resilience and connectedness:

  • Through the 12 week fitness programmes, 5 individual appointments and exercise classes we would attract those from Mitcham to not only engage in fitness and improve their own fitness, but to connect with other individuals within their community.
  • We would highlight through the programmes, appointments and classes, that fitness is for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or ability.

The project also seeks to improve family relations, enhance economic development and help build safer and stronger communities:

  • The family sessions give children and young people an opportunity to play with their family and learn new games.
  • Senior youth would also have the benefit of attending the evening classes with adults within the community.
  • We would use Urban Games to promote Sports Blast within the Mitcham community, reiterating that this is something for everyone regardless of age, ethnicity or ability.
  • Through the use of the Urban Games we would be able to reach out to more of the community, and encourage them in taking part in, and make use of, some of the fitness activities on offer.

In addition to Merton’s priorities, we were also targeting services to link in with, and contribute to, the priority outcome themes as defined by Merton, which are:

  • Improving Learning, Skills & Employability
  • Improving Wellbeing
  • Improving Cultural & Sports Facilities and Community Engagement
  • Increasing Physical Activity

Plan of action

To do this, we would provide bespoke programmes, to those in Mitcham that do not ordinarily engage in the community, to change their behaviour and attitude towards fitness. Programmes for the target group then attract families to the hub as well as increased participation in classes.

Programmes, appointments would be bespoke, while classes would be varied in their disciplines, this would give greater access to facilities and activities that engage not only the target group, but the community as a whole. We would provide ongoing assistance both throughout the duration of the project and after its conclusion, providing support in maintaining long term behavioural changes to health and wellbeing, which inadvertently would impact positively on mental wellbeing.

Development of the community gym at St Marks Church of England Academy, Mitcham, not only improves the facilities currently on site, but gives the community access to the facilities. By improving on the existing facilities and making them accessible to the community, coupled with the bespoke programmes, appointments and varied classes, we would be in a better position to engage the Mitcham community to take part.

Partners and funding

The YMCA LSW is one of several partners involved in Sports Blast, each having their own activities and targets to contribute to the main objective of the Sports Blast project in relation to the Urban Hub (estate based) and Family Hub (based at St Marks Church of England Academy, Mitcham.

The other partners and their responsibilities are:

  • London Borough of Merton – Overall management of the project & organising BMX
  • Circle Housing Merton Priory – Provide wardens, storage & marketing on 3 estates
  • Fulham Football Club – Estate based football and tennis
  • Surrey LTA – Family tennis and assisting Fulham FC with estate tennis.
  • Tooting and Mitcham United – Venue for estate football matches
  • England Netball – Back to Netball
  • St Marks Church of England Academy – Venue for the Family Hub
  • MVSC
  • Moat
  • London Sport

Sports Blast is a three year project and has had a total budget of £281,340.00 allocated to successfully complete the main objective of the project. Sport England has funded £120,140.00 of the Sports Blast budget.

YMCA LSW has been allocated a total of £48,600.00 to deliver its portion of the project over 3 years; £10,800.00 of which is assigned for the delivery of year 1.

Overview of year one

With the target to get 300 people aged 14 years plus through the doors, we also promoted Sports Blast amongst community groups and estates in Mitcham in January. We also utilised our community reach in other projects to promote Sports Blast.

The evening classes started in November 2014. The weekend family classes started in February and consisted of a child element (handled by a children’s play worker), and an adult element (handled by a fitness instructor). Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to establish the community gym, but we developed a total body circuit that would mimic the type of programme the gym would have facilitated.

Lessons learnt from year one

Due to a number of issues, we did not hit our targets for year one, but we have shown a steady increase in community participation, both in new participants joining a class, and existing participants trying other classes on offer.

We had a surge in participation following a targeted marketing approach in January and word of mouth has enabled participation figures to continue increasing since this initial surge. We also have participants being referred to participate in Sports Blast via the organisation, Livewell.

There has been an increase in the number of participants who are related and come from outside Mitcham to participate in getting active with their family and friends.


The project is achieving across the board with total participation numbers increasing on a month-by-month basis.

The programme has successfully engaged the Mitcham community and inadvertently raised the Mitcham profile by attracting people from within the borough, and indeed outside the borough to participate.

Later months show how effective word of mouth is in getting in touch with the community.

The programme benefits everyone, of all ages and abilities, as well as reaching those from different ethnicities.

Key learning points

We at YMCA LSW have learned that proactively engaging with the community will assist in spreading details on the Sports Blast project and what it has to offer. Face-to-face engagement and the reliability and approachability of staff also assist promoting the importance of the community amongst engaged participants; meaning they are more likely to spread the word and continue their engagement.

Participation has increased overall and the YMCA LSW has been engaging their target group, however, we would still like to engage more 14-25 and increase the number of people engaging on a regular basis.

There have been staffing issues for certain classes which have lead to participation fluctuation. Classes that fail to show an element of growth, via participation or new participants, would need to be reviewed.

Due to the problems surrounding the community gym, we will be looking at other avenues, particularly more classes as current participants have informed us whilst there are gym facilities in Mitcham, not all of them have an exercise class programme.

Future plans

Moving in to year 2, the focus will be on utilising any funds set aside for the community gym to implement more classes at St Marks Church of England Academy with the view of meeting participation targets, and making up the shortfall from year 1.

We will engage more with community groups, not only to help promote the Sports Blast Project, but to get their members to inform us of the types of classes they would be interested in attending, and what days and times would be suitable, in order to maximise the community outreach.

We will also work promote Sports Blast at YMCA LSW events that are held by Wimbledon YMCA, as well as promote Sports Blast via other groups/projects we participate with.

Further information

If you would like further information about the Sports Blast project, please contact Lisa-Marie Hawkins – Community Health & Wellbeing Project Coordinator (Mitcham) on email: Team.community@ymcalsw.org or call: 07880 033 553