Of the 3,000 teenagers surveyed by Barclays Spaces for Sports, one in four say that people in the public eye – who they don’t know but admire from afar – have more influence over them than anyone in their own lives. While teenagers rank celebrity influences like models and reality TV stars higher than politicians, it is sporting heroes who remain very high on the list of those that they aspire and look up to most (58%).
The research – backed by dance group Diversity - also pointed towards increasing community detachment among teenagers as they get older; 10% of 13-year-olds surveyed felt no links to their community, increasing to 20% for 18-year-olds.
Of those young people surveyed who did express some connection with their communities, sport still emerged as a key link between them and where they live, with half of them identifying sports coaches as important role models (47%), along with family members and teachers.
Barclays launched its Spaces for Sports initiative five years ago in the UK, and has now created 200 sustainable sports sites in partnership with the Football Foundation (which also match-funded 20 of the large, flagship sites) and Groundwork. These provide community spaces where young people can go to take part in sport, learn team responsibilities and, in many cases, go on to gain useful skills and experience to enhance their employment prospects.
The role sport can play in helping young people to feel part of their communities, which was identified in the research findings, is also reflected in the impact that the Spaces for Sports programme has had. One of the sites, Bransbury Park in Portsmouth, has seen a 26% reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour in last 24 months.
Julian Wadsworth, Respect Programme Manager for Social Inclusion who co-ordinates activities at Bransbury Park, said: “As well as helping to prevent youngsters going down the wrong path by offering sporting activities they enjoy, the initiatives we run also focus on encouraging social and personal development, community involvement, healthy lifestyles and enjoyment of education and learning.
“We’ve seen the results with Bransbury Park becoming the hub of youth provision in South East Portsmouth, improving community awareness and massively reducing youth crime in the area.”
Rachael Barber, Head of Global Community Investment at Barclays, said: "The fact that so many teenagers feel disenfranchised and detached from their communities is something that should concern us all – stories appear every day about the effect this might be having on issues such as youth crime and unemployment.
“Sport clearly doesn’t provide all the answers. But this research, along with the tangible benefits we’ve seen from the Barclays Spaces for Sports programme, show it can be a popular and effective way of tackling these problems.”
Successful dance act and winners of TV Show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, Diversity, have backed the research. The group’s leader and chief choreographer, Ashley Banjo, said: "I think for all of us in Diversity, we put our recent success down to the fact that we’ve been lucky enough to surround ourselves with family and mentors where we grew up who gave us the encouragement and opportunity to pursue our interest.
“Dance is like all sports in that to get the most out of it you need to show commitment and self-discipline, and programmes like Barclays Spaces for Sports are great for giving young people the chance to try new activities and become focused on something positive.”
George Skeates, 17 and from Portsmouth, is one such person who now identifies with his community more as a result of his association with the Barclays Spaces for Sports facilities at Bransbury Park: “When I used to come to Bransbury Park before I got involved with the Respect programme, I thought that people viewed young people as trouble makers but since the programme has started, I think people’s views have changed for the better.
“The Respect Programme and Barclays Spaces for Sports have given young people, including me, a chance to take part in courses, gain new skills and be given the chance to develop these new skills by offering volunteering opportunities. The programme also helped push me to re-enter full time education at Portsmouth College.”