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Park fitness initiative Our Parks secures funding for coaching network

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Outdoor activity provider Our Parks, which offers people across England free outdoor exercise and fitness sessions, has secured a £245,000 National Lottery award.

Our Parks will use the funding – distributed by Sport England – to create a more representative coaching team and encourage more people to get physically active.

Our Parks was founded by Born Barikor in 2014, with the goal of giving people in London access to free outdoor exercise sessions.

With initial backing from Waltham Forest Council, Our Parks has grown rapidly ever since and its network now covers most of England.

Now, with Our Parks reaching more than 100,000 people across England, Barikor is launching the ‘Coach Parker’ project – aimed at growing the company's coaching workforce and increasing the number of people from under-represented groups engaging with their sessions.

“This award marks a new era in coaching and is so important to empower communities, individuals and those from all backgrounds with the right to coach or volunteer in the urban outdoor exercise space,” Barikor said.

“I am a byproduct of good coaching in an urban environment that came to me at a low point in my life when things could have gone in so many directions.

“The power of good coaching is life-changing and Coach Parker will adapt the approach to what coaching is and where it takes place to broaden the DNA of our coach and volunteer workforce.”

He added that, when recruiting their coaches and instructors, Our Parks doesn’t look at qualifications, rather they run ‘auditions’ to see how their coaches make people feel when getting active.

“They have 500 parkers on a waiting list to become coaches,” said Stuart Armstrong, Sport England's strategic lead for workforce transformation.

“Most of these people were previously inactive, are from the kinds of communities that don’t access physical activity, and are currently marginalised from our workforce because the costs of qualifications is a barrier and the way the qualification is delivered is off-putting – particularly for those who have been less engaged by formal education.

“Coach Parker seeks to address this challenge by making it easier for the people with the ‘star dust’ to pass on their passion, join the workforce and inspire others to make becoming physically active a reality.”

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Outdoor activity provider Our Parks, which offers people across England free outdoor exercise and fitness sessions, has secured a £245,000 National Lottery award.
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