Active Paddle programme launched for London youngsters

A new programme is being launched to help youngsters in London get into canoeing

A new programme is being launched to help youngsters in London get into canoeing - Credit: LYR

British Canoeing, through the England Talent Programme, has partnered with London Youth Rowing (LYR) and Sport England to create the Active Paddle programme to bring canoeing opportunities to young people at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Royal Docks in East London.

LYR has opened up the benefits of rowing to young people who would not normally get the chance to participate in the sport, through a series of engagement programmes across London, Leeds and Kent. This new partnership with British Canoeing will see the addition of paddlesports to their offer.

Youngsters will get canoeing opportunities at the Olympic Park through the Active Paddle programme

Youngsters will get canoeing opportunities at the Olympic Park through the Active Paddle programme - Credit: LYR

The partnership is being supported by Sport England, who will be investing around £140,000 over the next three years. The fund will go towards the recruitment and training of a full-time canoeing coach to deliver Active Paddle at the LYR boat clubs and in schools across East London. 

It is hoped this will enable the provision of a mix of rowing and paddlesports to those children and young people it connects with through its Active Row programme, which works with 60-plus state secondary schools across London, regularly working with over 2,000 young people each year.

With further investment in coach development, education and the provision of qualifications, British Canoeing will support the boat club to become a recognised club in due course and provide access and support to the talent pathway for those with competitive aspirations.

Rich Ramsdale, British Canoeing’s Head of Talent, said: "Through our own research we know that while we have a close gender balance within our England talent programme, the majority of our athletes on English squads are white, with very few from the most deprived areas of the country.

"It is clear we need to identify ways to positively change in order to develop paddlesport to reach a broader representation within the participation base and our talent pathways."

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In March this year, British Canoeing launched its four-year strategy, Stronger Together 2022-26. One of the key cross-cutting themes will focus on improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, to help everyone enjoy paddling, regardless of identity, background or circumstance.

"When we met LYR in 2019, they engaged with almost five thousand young people, of whom 49 per cent were female, 69 per cent from an ethnically diverse background and eight percent had special education needs or disabilities. Their mission to make rowing more accessible to young people from all backgrounds is something we believe that can be achieved in canoeing too," added Ramsdale.

"The key aim of Active Paddle is to give young people the chance to try canoeing who would not normally have had the opportunity to give it a try, or they perceive it as a sport that’s not for them. 

"We want to change the perception of paddlesports and provide an active environment for young people to start, sustain and enjoy the sport. Moreover, this presents an opportunity to begin a project in which LYR, British Canoeing and Sport England can use to test and learn. It can provide a blueprint for future talent inclusion projects both in other sports and within paddlesport."

Matt Rostron, CEO of LYR, said: "We are very excited to be further expanding our long-standing partnership with Sport England and starting a new partnership with British Canoeing. Using our existing network of schools to give young people the opportunity to try paddlesports alongside our existing offer of rowing gives us another route to get young people active and help them develop skills for life through taking part in water sports.

"Running the programme in East London will help us make the most of our sites at the Royal Docks and, in particular, the new water sports hub we are developing at the Olympic Park. We are really looking forward to working with our first non-rowing NGB to see what we can both learn from this new and exciting project.

"We’re looking forward to learning how best to give young people from non-traditional backgrounds their first experience of canoeing and paddle sports through Active Paddle and, if they want to, help them take the first steps on performance pathways."

The partnership and delivery will begin during the summer of 2022.