England rugby legend Jason Robinson's bid to help Doncaster youngsters

As part of Rossington's Expect Youth Summer programme Jason Robinson (England rugby world cup winner) came to visit Rossington Community Sports Village. Picture Scott Merrylees
As part of Rossington's Expect Youth Summer programme Jason Robinson (England rugby world cup winner) came to visit Rossington Community Sports Village. Picture Scott Merrylees

Most days, it is packed with Doncaster teenagers playing sports as part of their regular PE lessons, or adults taking exercise session in the evenings

But for the last few weeks things have been different at the Rossington Community Sports Village. The youngsters are still there during the daytime, but many are younger than usual. And the bark of the PE teachers has been replaced by a string of experts ranging from cycling proficiency coaches to circus skills teachers.

The venue has been taken over for a string of half term activities, which this week saw a legendary figure of English rugby taking part, as world cup winning former player Jason Robinson took sessions at the venue.

It has been part of a scheme that has been running across the borough which has seen the venue, a school sports centre which is also open for community access, run by Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, provide summer holiday activities.

It's not just been for the little ones, and its not just sports.

The circus skills sessions have seen the mums and dads joining in, and there have also been sessions to teach lifeguard skills for older ones.

But the visit of international rugby star Jason was the big attraction this week, as part of his JR Sports Stars project.

He showed them some rugby skills - but he also joined in activities including the circus skills and cycling proficiency as he engaged with the both youngsters and some star struck parents.

He said: "We've had a lot of fun but there's more to it than that. We've done some rugby, but I used to enjoy multi-sports, so we've been doing different sports too. It's all about hand-eye co-ordination, and the more skills you pick up the better it will be for you in whatever you do.

"The idea is to get the local kids involved. People talk of childhood obesity and claim children just play on their computer games. But sport can be really positive, giving discipline and focus.

"I was shy as a youngster but I got confidence through sport, and got communication skills through sport, that can help in all fields of life."

Jason was brought up in a single parent family in Leeds not knowing his dad, and describes himself as having a 'challenging upbringing' in a deprived part of Leeds. He feels it it is helpful to share his background. He feels that people don't often realise high profile people that they see on their televisions have had tough backgrounds.

He was pleased to see the enthusiasm of the youngsters in Rossington. "The key thing is to enjoy your sport, and be around other people in the fresh air," he said.

John Whiteley, deputy chief executive of the Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, said they had been working with the youth organisation Expect Youth over the summer to run activities, with more than four free activities going on from Monday to Friday., ranging from arts and crafts, leisure and sports.

They are trying to find activities which will help develop the youngsters' essential life skills, and resilience. That means activities such as swimming lessons are included. They also run a 'rookie lifeguard' session, and a full pool lifeguard training session for the oldest ones, which has led to a couple of job applications from those who have taken it.

They discussed the plans with local groups including the Holmes Carr Centre, and the local church, to try to make sure they were not stepping on anyone's toes.

He said: "The target was to engage 600 children in Rossington. We engaged 500 in the first four weeks.."

"The most popular activities have been the inflatable fun sessions in the swimming pool. They were at capacity last year with people queueing at the door, so we doubled the number of sessions to two this year."

Rossington mum Amanda Napier's son, Keaton, was among those involved in the scheme this year, and thought the programme was great.

She said: "It's on our doorstep and it is free, and its somewhere for the kids to come with their friends."

Another Rossington parent, dad James Cole, said he had brought both his children down. His younger son, Harry, aged seven, had taken part in the circus skills sessions, while older boy, Sam, aged 10, was taking part in the sports sessions.

James, aged 40, joined in with the circus sessions himself.

"I had a go, because it looked fun," he said. "Harry was really looking forward to the tightropes."

James is a rugby fans who used to play junior rugby as a child with Doncaster Knights, and admitted he had been looking forward to seeing Jason Robinson at the session.

He said: "I told Sam who he was and he was quite excited. Jason was just getting out of his car when we arrived - it was great to see him there. Sam was excited to think he was going to play with an international sports star.

"Sam's been doing a few different things here. He'as also been doing the junior life guards and loved it, and he's booked into another session."

* Expect Summer runs until Friday 31 August and is are hosting are than 800 activities, Monday to Friday, for the full six week school holiday period.

They are running weekly camps in areas including Thorne, Moorends, Hexthorpe, Balby, Edlington, Conisbrough, Denaby, Rossington and Mexborough.

Expect Youth Strategic Development Director, Peter Norman, said; “We are committed to creating opportunities for children and young people to lead a healthy, active lifestyle that will help them unlock their talent and fulfill their potential.

Log onto www.expectyouth.co.uk for details of all the activities