Communication and mental health were among the topics on the agenda at the latest meeting of the Multi-Sport Youth Forum.
Young people who are involved in Northern Ireland’s three main sports – football, Gaelic Games and rugby - participate in the forum.
The latest gathering attracted 27 sports volunteers and was staged at Midgley Park, Linfield FC’s training ground in Belfast.
Supported by the Department for Communities and the Sir George Quigley Fund, as well as the Irish FA, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby, the event provided an opportunity for the volunteers to come together to discuss key issues affecting sport and the role of young people in sport.
The participants, from sports clubs across the country, focused on issues relating to communication, mental health and the opportunities and challenges for the three main sports to work together.
The forum explored the latest communication and social media platforms and debated if they were suitable for sports clubs to use when communicating with young members.
The impact of sport on mental health and wellbeing was explored, too. The volunteers considered what more needs to be done by sports clubs to support its members struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Discussing the Public Health Agency’s ‘Take 5’ initiative aimed at improving wellbeing, the young people focused on the role of sport in boosting physical health and providing a positive social outlet for people, which they felt was crucial for good mental wellbeing. They also identified ways sports clubs and governing bodies could play a role in helping and supporting those who need it.
In addition the young people looked at current big news stories in sport, including the UK and Ireland’s successful Euro 2028 bid and the recent Ulster Rugby game held at the Breffni Park GAA ground in Cavan.
Highlighting the positive role sport plays in breaking down barriers and building peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the young people also looked at the challenges of sports organisations working together.
Kyle Robinson, the Irish FA Foundation’s Club Development Officer, said: “The participants expressed their desire to learn more about each sport and showed a willingness to get involved in further multi-sports events and projects, proving that the younger generation can and are affecting change here.
“Following the successful forum, the young participants and their parents and guardians were welcomed into the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for the Northern Ireland v Slovenia game (Euro 2024 qualifier).
“For many this was their first ever experience at a Northern Ireland game, and it was heartening to see the young people mix together and enjoy the match together, highlighting the power of sport.”