Harry’s on the ball with hygiene as he helps #StopTheSpread

Banbury’s Harry Baker is determined that coronavirus won’t kick his passion for sport into touch.

Published: Tuesday, 6th October 2020

The 23-year-old has worked as a Youth Activator for Cherwell District Council for over a year now. Aside from running activity sessions for local school children and families, he also represents his country as a centre back for England CP team, the national cerebral palsy football team.

The Youth Activators started running their sessions again in June, but the way they deliver them has changed considerably, with bubbles, handwashing and contact tracing all par for the course.

As coronavirus cases are rising in Oxfordshire, Harry is clear that following public health advice is essential to helping #StopTheSpread and allowing young people to safely enjoy outdoor sports and games.

Harry said: “I enjoy going out and meeting new people, helping them with physical activity and, if they don’t already have one, encouraging them to find a new love for sport and exercise.

“All our sessions are delivered outside, which lowers the risk of coronavirus transmission. The students wash their hands before the session and, for the individual games, we ask the participants to stay in their hoops, two metres apart.

“Since COVID-19 we have stopped running team sports - like dodgeball and capture the flag - and started doing adapted circuit training exercises, and individual games, like musical statues.

“If it’s a family session, we make sure each family is spaced three to five metres apart in their own bubble, and then the hoops are spaced two metres apart within the bubbles.”

After each session the Youth Activators wipe down the hoops so there’s no risk of cross-contamination. They are also operating contact tracing, with the ability for participants who have the NHS COVID-19 app to check in by scanning their unique QR code.

They may not have been the first thing that he expected when he signed up for the job a year ago, but these measures also mean Harry can do his bit to address the mental health consequences of COVID-19 for young people.

He continued: “We’re also offering a new mental health and wellbeing programme with the aim of defeating the stigma around the topic.

“The response to the hygiene and social distancing measures has been fantastic - the participants have worked hard at each session and always given 100 per cent.”

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s director of public health, said: “It is really important for young people’s physical and mental health that they have access to physical activities during this pandemic. But it is also essential that this is arranged safely, without risking giving the virus a foothold.

“The success that Harry and the Youth Activators are having shows that by following the simple advice of washing our hands, socially distancing, and following the rule of six, we can enjoy the health benefits of sports and outdoor games while keeping COVID-19 at bay.

“We’re all having to adapt while this virus is with us. Cases are rising across the county and the situation can quickly escalate, so we all need to need to stay on our guard.”

Many of the Youth Activators’ sessions are delivered as part of Cherwell’s FAST family activity programme. Funded by Sport England, the scheme makes it easier for children and their families to do sport and physical activity together.

In the first two years since it was launched, in summer 2018, FAST had served over 5,500 families in Banbury. Its success has now seen it expand to Bicester and Kidlington too.

Harry added: “It is vital that we remain in our bubbles and keep socially distanced.

“Together, following the government guidelines, we can beat coronavirus and hopefully return to some sense of normality.”

Find out more about the Youth Activators and the FAST scheme by clicking this link.

For the latest local coronavirus information and advice, visit this page