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Gold medal boost for latest I Will If You Will project

Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington joined the Minister for Sport Helen Grant to unveil the latest initiative in the ‘I Will If You Will’ campaign.

Joining representatives from Sport England, Bury Council and the local community, the pair officially opened a new mobile pool at Broad Oak Sports College in East Bury that will help rigorously test what works in changing the sporting habits of women and girls.

The school is based in an area with a particularly high BME population and the pool will specifically address the cultural and religious sensitivities that prevent women and girls from these communities taking part in swimming.

Rebecca said: “I’m really pleased to be in Bury to lend my support to the ‘I Will If You Will’ campaign. I think programmes that specifically target females to take part in sport are really important.

“We need to find more ways to encourage more women and girls to be physically active, and innovative projects like the mobile pool here at Broad Oak Sports College are fantastic. It creates a really warm and welcoming environment, where participants can feel comfortable and confident taking part.

“There are lots of reasons why women and girls don’t do more physical activity, such as body image and cultural reasons, and we need to find ways of breaking these barriers down.”

As well as mainstream barriers, many women and girls from BME communities are often prevented from taking part in swimming because of the clothing that needs to be worn and the lack of female-only sessions and coaching staff. Over the next six months, a comprehensive aquatics programme will aim to address these barriers and the lessons learned during this time used to inform local delivery in community leisure centres.

Helen Grant, Minister for Sport, said: “We want to do all we can to encourage greater sports participation among women. As part of the ‘I Will If You Will’ campaign this re-locatable pool at Broad Oak will not only be a great community asset but specifically target women and girls from BME communities to help break down the barriers that are preventing them from getting active.”

The heated indoor swimming pool is being used to deliver a range of activities targeted specifically at women and girls over 14. These include women-only swimming lessons, aqua fitness and mother and baby sessions. School classes are also being targeted, with every girl at Broad Oak having the opportunity to use the pool. Sessions are delivered by female-only swimming teachers.

Sport England Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said: "So many women and girls who may not want to play team sports will try swimming and that's why this project is so important. By making it easier for them to take part we'll get more women and girls active, no matter what their cultural or religious beliefs are."

I Will if You Will is a movement to get the women and girls of Bury moving. With £2.3 milliion of National Lottery funding from Sport England and being delivered by Bury Council, this initiative is about women getting together and trying something new: doing something for themselves for a change and having a laugh while they do it. Best practice from Bury will be used to inform strategy to help increase the number of women participating in sport across the country. 

To find out the times of the sessions, or to book sessions in the mobile pool, go to www.iwillifyouwill.co.uk/mobile-pool or phone 0161 764 2224.

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