Jenny Frost, a Sports Science graduate is in no doubt that racing’s openness and positive attitude towards young people can and is changing lives. Part of the team at the charity Active Communities Network, Jenny explains how the Take The Reins programme is exceeding expectations in offering support to inner city groups.
I have always had a keen interest in sport and am a firm believer that it really can change lives.
As Events and Communications Manager for Active Communities Network (ACN) – a development charity that uses sport as a pathway for young people into education, training and employment – I am lucky to combine a lot of my interests.
I have been at the charity for two-and-a-half years and have thoroughly enjoyed the multiple opportunities thrown at me. ACN is one of two organisations which joined together to create the Take The Reins (TTR) initiative, which provides young people with activity days and information about training qualifications and employability options within horse racing. TTR quickly developed after initial conversations with Flying Futures, our strategic partners, when we identified what we saw as a disconnection between the industry and a new generation of young people.
The strength of the initiative is through the partnerships that have been formed and with the support provided by horseracing professionals and the Racing Together initiative. I have been overwhelmed by how open and enthusiastic professionals within the industry have been to provide opportunities to our young people, and the amount of knowledge they are willing to share. One example of this is a recent visit to the BHA’s head office in London with a group of young people from Lambeth. The group turned up not knowing what to expect but left with a wealth of knowledge from every department in the building and some really valuable life skills. Just interacting with such a diverse group of professionals, who just happened to work in the racing industry, was a new experience for our beneficiaries.
Having grown up in the West Country, I had positive experiences of horseracing from early on and this convinced me that the programme would be a success with young people from inner city London. However, I had never quite expected the response we have received. Growing up outside of London you take a lot for granted, whereas the majority of the young people on our London programme spend 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the borough they grew-up in, and with people they’ve always known. TTR allows young people to go outside of their comfort zone and try something new. That in itself feels like a step forward for many.
Since the programme started we have had over 100 young people visit Lingfield Racecourse, of which only 12% reported having any previous experience with horses. I always enjoy the days at Lingfield Park; the young people are amazed as soon as they walk through the entrance and by the time they’ve seen the horses, met the jockeys, had a tour of the kitchens and spoken with other departments around the resort they are left astounded at the different opportunities, just in one small place.
At ACN our mission is to tackle poverty, create opportunities and inspire change. Initiatives like TTR and the support from the racing industry have allowed this to happen. Whether our young people decide on careers in racing or not, TTR is giving them a ‘money can’t buy’ experience, which is developing personal and social skills as well as broadening their horizons. This year we are hopeful to have young people take part in a week-long work experience placement at Lingfield, which will hopefully result in part-time employment at the resort. We are so grateful to the team at the racecourse, as it’s important that the programme delivers something for everyone.
I am very excited about the work we are doing in racing as the sport has so much to offer. This is just the start of something which could be life-changing to many young people across London and the wider UK.