Young people in Oxford challenged to lead the way through sport

Tuesday, 06 March 2007

TOP Link conference sees Olympic athlete Mark Richardson inspiring future leaders and volunteers.

On Tuesday 6 March, Olympic athlete Mark Richardson visited Oxford Brookes to support a national leadership and volunteering programme for thousands of young people.

The TOP Link 'Young people leading the way' conference which took place at Oxford Brookes is part of a national initiative run by the Youth Sports Trust, where Olympic, Paralympic, world, European and other elite sports performers are to attend 32 conferences across the UK. The conferences are designed to encourage 14 to 16 year olds to develop and utilise their leadership and volunteering skills through organising and running sport or dance festivals for local primary schools.

The TOP Link conferences are led by young people for young people. Sixteen Oxford Brookes undergraduates who are on the University's Sports Science and Sports Coaching and Nutrition degrees welcomed more than 70 school children to the conference. The day featured a mixture of theory and practical workshops – all helping to give those attending further qualifications in sports leadership.

The Brookes students set a variety of challenges during the day to test the 14 to 16 year olds' skills of planning, time management, people management, decision-making, problem-solving, budget control and communication. By leading the conference, the University students also developed their own leadership and management skills.

Olympic athlete and Sporting Champion Mark Richardson said: "The aim of the TOP Link conferences is to give thousands of young people across the country the training, skills and experience which will be invaluable for them in later life either as volunteers, players, coaches, officials or sports administrators.

"We want these young people to start a life-long involvement in leadership and volunteering in sport and what better way to achieve this than by empowering other young people to deliver the programme and share the positive impact sport is having on their lives."

Mark was joined in leading the conference by Cathy Gilliat-Smith, hockey champion who plays for Great Britain.

Last year, more than 5,000 young volunteers helped organise 1,200 TOP Link festivals for tens of thousands of primary-aged children. This year, a record number of young people are set to take part in TOP Link, which forms an integral part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Step into Sport programme – the leadership and volunteering strand of the National School Sport Strategy.

Notes to Editors:

  1. For more information about the Youth Sports Trust and Top Link events across the UK, contact James Webb, Youth Sport Trust Press Officer
  2. The TOP Link "Young people leading the way" conferences are part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Step into Sport programme, funded through the Government's National School Sport Strategy which aims to enhance the take-up of sporting opportunities by five to sixteen-year-olds by increasing the percentage of school children who spend a minimum of two hours each week on high quality PE and school sport within and beyond the curriculum to 75% in 2006 and 85% by 2008. By 2010 the aim is to offer all children at least four hours of sport every week, comprised of at least two hours high quality PE and sport at school and the opportunity for at least a further two to three hours beyond the school day.
  3. Step into Sport is a leadership and volunteering programme delivered through the network of School Sport Partnerships and managed by the Youth Sport Trust and Sport England with support from Sports Leaders UK.
  4. The Youth Sport Trust is a registered charity established in 1994 to build a brighter future for young people through sport. Its mission is to support the education and development of all young people through sport. For further information please visit
  5. Sporting Champions, developed and funded by Sport England, brings world-class athletes face-to face with young people to motivate them to take part in sport. It aims to inspire young people to participate in sport as a lifelong activity and works alongside a range of other measures to help create a new generation of physically active people. To view the profiles of all Sport England's Sporting Champions, including Mark Richardson