Track Academy is an organisation which helps young people to achieve their potential despite the circumstances into which they are born. Based at Willesden Sports Centre, the programme, set up by former British triple jump star Connie Henry, will now be strengthened by Laureus’ support.
Lord Coe said: “As Chairman of LOCOG, I am very keen to ensure that there is a significant legacy delivered for young people in London after the games. Projects like Track Academy, which use sport to improve people’s lives and gives youngsters more options in life, can do just that. I’m delighted that we at Laureus are able to support this innovative scheme.”
Connie Henry, who won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, founded Track Academy in 2007. She said: “Children growing up in Brent are under constant pressure to join gangs, run drugs and become involved in crime. Track Academy provides an alternative to this and I am so delighted that the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is going to support us and I can’t thank Seb, Michael and Steve enough for coming along. It has made this an unforgettable day for the youngsters.”
Michael Johnson added: “Connie has done a great job over the years establishing Track Academy which does a very important job in this neighbourhood. When you talk to the young people you realise what a difference sport can make to their hopes and dreams of a better future. I thought the quality of the coaching on offer was excellent and I am not surprised that the project is such a success. I am very happy to do what I can to support it.”
And Sir Steve Redgrave, who became an Academy Member in February, said: “This is my first project visit as a Laureus Academy Member and I was impressed with the whole scope of the project. I thought the facilities at Willesden Sports Centre were exceptional. It was great talking to the youngsters and sharing some time with them. I was able to tell them the importance of sticking at what they are doing and not giving up.”
Highlight of the visit was an impromptu sprint on the Willesden track between Michael Johnson, who won Olympic gold medals at 200 and 400 metres, Sebastian Coe, specialist distance 800 and 1,500 metres, Steve Redgrave, much more used to going faster in a sculling boat, and youngsters from the project.
The area of London surrounding Willesden Sports Centre is one of the most socially deprived in the city. Parts of Stonebridge and Harlesden have the lowest levels for education attainment in London, with a decreasing percentage of people obtaining any formal qualifications.
Track Academy helps to combat anti-social behaviour by using sport as the means to interest young people and bring them into a positive environment with inspirational role models and educational support. The project combines a track training programme with a mentor and study plan which helps participants to overcome barriers in their life.
The track programme encompasses current training techniques for Olympians and knowledge of nutrition while increasing confidence through teamwork and structured goal setting. The athletics sessions are developed and delivered by an expert team of international coaches.
The mentor programme identifies issues behind anti-social behaviour and non attendance at school and advises on careers and further education opportunities, while the on-site study support programme improves numeracy, literacy and communication to improve academic results and employment opportunities in the future.
CASE STUDY: Annie Tagoe, 17, had been excluded 32 times from school before she joined Track Academy. She has now achieved distinctions in recent exam results and fourth place in the individual 100 metres sprint at the Youth Olympics in Singapore and a bronze medal with the relay team. This remarkable turnaround is a direct result of Track Academy’s key elements: study support, mentor support and the track programme.
Annie says: “Two-and-a-half years ago, my PE teacher Miss Goodwin realised I had a talent during our sports day and dragged me to Willesden, where I met all these wonderful, supportive and encouraging coaches. Before I came to Willesden, my behaviour wasn't the best at school. I would get in trouble all the time and wouldn't take my education seriously. When it came to GCSE, I didn't get the grades that I hoped for and was really disappointed. I came and told coaches Connie and Clarence. You could see the disappointment in their eyes, but they still stood beside me and got me a tutor to teach me three times a week, which I'm so thankful for. My behaviour has also improved enormously by having a mentor at Track Academy and Miss Walsh, my Head of Year at school, supporting me as well. I am thankful and grateful.”