The community and local police have praised a youth sport project in Stockport following a significant drop in anti-social behaviour.
ParkLives, run by charitable trust and not-for-profit social enterprise Life Leisure and serving the Adswood and Bridgehall housing estates, sees qualified coaches lead free, weekly youth sport sessions on space previously not used for any kind of organised community activity.
Set up with funding from national charity StreetGames, the project has only been running since 2017, yet in that time instances of anti-social behaviour involving young people on the estate and neighbouring areas have halved, a fact local police are sure is linked to the positive impact of sport.
PC Stephen Webster, from Greater Manchester Police’s Cheadle Heath and Central Policing Team, said: “Anti-social behaviour has been an issue in this area for a number of years. Responding to call outs of criminal activity involving young people has, sadly, been a big part of our role here.
“But since Life Leisure started running ParkLives, we’ve definitely seen a noticeable difference. As well as being a fantastic opportunity for local kids to get active, the sessions are engaging and really disciplined.
“The young people have fun, respect the coaches and get respect back, all of which means they want to keep coming. And because Sasha, who runs the sessions, liaises closely with us and the local school, the kids know they have to behave to keep that privilege.”
Open to participants of any age, the young people attending are given a choice of sports – anything from football to gymnastics – and are then given coaching together with any equipment needed.
Up to around 30 children, typically ranging in age from between 8-17, show up every week to take part in the ParkLives sessions led by Sasha Moore and her colleague Mathew Norford, himself a reformed gang member. For many of the young people who attend, their involvement is key.
Sasha said: “I live on the estate so the kids really relate to that. I was also inspired by sport at an early age, I loved gymnastics and competed for Great Britain.
“But what I really talk to the kids about is what sport gave me back. It taught me to work hard and stick at something I’ve started no matter what.
“I now do something I love. They see that if they set their mind to it, they can do the same.
“It sounds like a tiny thing but for some, the fact that they are showing the dedication to stick with these sessions every week is starting to give them self-belief that they can commit to something else, including careers.”
Life Leisure, which manages 12 sports and leisure facilities in and around Stockport, also delivers similar neighbourhood projects across the area, with sessions running in Brinnington, Cheadle Heath, Lancashire Hill and Offerton.
For Sasha, these projects are vital to their respective communities. Sasha said: “Residents have really welcomed delivery of these projects, in fact the only complaints we ever receive now are from people asking for more sessions in their area.
“When you see the difference the sport has made to lives in Bridgehall and Adswood, it’s clear to see why.”