The success of a project led by England Hockey and Muslim Sports Foundation, to give Muslim girls in Birmingham the chance to play hockey for the first time and be inspired by the Commonwealth Games, could see it being rolled out to other cities across the country.
The project - supported by Sport England's Commonwealth Games legacy funding to increase participation in sport among least active groups - has seen a group of 40 girls between the ages of 8 and 16 take part in free weekly hockey sessions across the summer with many developing a love for the game.
The partnership between England Hockey and Muslim Sports Foundation - the UK’s leading grassroots organisation looking to inspire, guide and help Muslims implement healthy and active lifestyles - saw them come together to deliver the eight-week programme at Small Heath Wellbeing Centre, working with local mosques and community leaders to engage with the girls and tackle the barriers to taking part in sport and physical activity faced by them.
Whilst these vary, they include cultural barriers alongside body image and confidence issues as well as financial barriers hindering travel to and from facilities, often resulting in low participation rates for girls from Muslim backgrounds who live in urban areas.
The sessions were led by England Hockey coaches including local coach Christine Dalby-Albi, a converted Muslim, and have been captured by local photographer, Milie Noble. They are set to resume in September as part of England Hockey’s wider Birmingham 2022 legacy programme aimed at increasing participation and improving access and opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds in West Midlands to play hockey. England Hockey and The Muslim Sports Foundation are also exploring the possibility of delivering the project in other cities across the country.
England Hockey will look to roll out further schemes in partnership with Muslim Sports Foundation. We would love to hear from clubs / deliverers who would like to be part of future plans; please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Commonwealth Games is fantastic for Birmingham and the West Midlands but it is vital that we use it as an opportunity to tackle inactivity and engage with communities across the region, who for a variety of reasons, haven’t had the opportunity to play hockey. By working with The Muslim Sports Foundation throughout, we’ve been able to deliver a programme that is sensitive to the barriers faced by Muslim girls and the results have been fantastic.
"We’ve seen the sessions gain in popularity week-by-week and its been great to see the girls develop a real interest in and love for hockey in that time. We’re hoping that we can use this as model to give Muslim girls in other cities across the country the same opportunities to try and play hockey.” - Nick Pink, England Hockey Chief Executive
“The sessions have proven to be very popular with the community and we have had amazing feedback from parents and girls. Sessions like these emphasise our mission which is 'Every child, deserves every opportunity, at every sport.' The girls have thoroughly enjoyed coming every week with passion and enthusiasm and it is the collaboration between Muslim Sports Foundation and England Hockey that has enabled it to be a success.” - Yasmin Hussain, Muslim Sports Foundation
“It’s been wonderful to be involved in this project and to see the girls improve so quickly. It’s always lovely to see them running to get to the session on time and desperate to collect their sticks and balls. As a Muslim myself, it’s a joy to share the sport I love with other Muslims and see the enjoyment of playing hockey on their faces every week.” - Coach Christine Dalby-Ali, session deliverer