Please tell us about the project.
“My programme is called ‘Take Action Through Skateboarding’, and with it I hope to be able to help young Turkish people live a healthier life by introducing them to sport. These children are physically, socially or economically vulnerable and have little or no access to sport. They are also vulnerable to taking harmful substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and I believe sport is a way of showing them there are different paths that they can take.”
What inspired you to pursue this initiative?
“I ran a similar project in 2018 based on BMX cycling, giving 104 deprived children the chance to experience the sport with experts over seven weeks. In Turkey, BMX cycling does not have a big profile, and bringing the children together was a great opportunity to teach them about the sport, as well as talk about the Olympic values, healthy living and nutrition. The feedback was amazing, and many of the children said they wanted to continue with the sport. I am a qualified sports and exercise psychologist; I applied what is called a ‘Sport Participation Motivation Scale’ measurement to the project and realised it had really made a positive impact. For example, 52 per cent of the girls involved expressed an interest in sport before the programme, but that had risen to 72 per cent afterwards. For the boys, it was 72 per cent before the sessions and 84 per cent when they had finished. I decided to repeat the exercise but this time through skateboarding, another sport which is not well known in Turkey and which is often seen only as a ‘street sport’ despite its popularity in many other countries.”
What is your own sporting background?
“I am a former boxer and have been working as a referee for the Turkish Football Federation since 2012. I have a master’s degree in sports and exercise psychology, and I’m currently working on my PhD in sports sciences. I have been involved in sport as both an athlete and an educator for a long time.”
When is the launch of “Take Action Through Skateboarding”?
“The project will begin in March 2020 and continue every week until June 2020. It will take place in the Pendik district of Istanbul, and I want to involve 100 children, aged between 10 and 14. Each week there will be an hour-long session run by eight trainers and supported by 20 local volunteers. Pendik is an area with a high density of refugees, and the children there can be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse.”
What support do you have for the initiative?
“Of course, there is the grant from the IOC, which I will use to buy equipment, as well as gifts for the children and a closing ceremony. Beyond that, there is the support from Panasonic (IOC Young Leaders programme sponsor) and my National Olympic Committee (NOC). For my cycling project, I was fortunate to receive help from the Istanbul Gedik University, Marmara University, the local Pendik Municipality and the Turkish BMX association.”
What are your goals for your programme?
“The ultimate aim is to make it possible for children from difficult backgrounds to enjoy sport, and hopefully encourage them not to be involved with harmful substances. Healthy living and social skills are very important. It is also about promoting skateboarding in Turkey.”
How did you become an IOC Young Leader?
“On behalf of the Turkish NOC, I attended the International Session for Young Participants organised by the International Olympic Academy in Greece in 2017. My NOC then told me I could be its candidate to become an IOC Young Leader, and I was selected to take part in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018 last year. There I learnt about the opportunity to apply for seed-funding for my sport for social development programmes, and I jumped at the chance to work with the IOC back in Turkey.”
Tell us about your experience at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018.
“It was incredible. I loved the energy of South America and the atmosphere helped to make brilliant Games. The Opening Ceremony and the facilities for the athletes were amazing. My role was to support the young athletes, and we enjoyed the activity areas and the guest speeches made by Olympic athletes. Because of my educational background, I was also there to support the psychological performance of the athletes if they needed it.”
Supported by a grant from the IOC of up to CHF 5,000, the 2019-2020 cycle of IOC Young Leaders will see over 50 new and ongoing sport for social development initiatives undertaken worldwide over the next 12 months.
Each initiative is focused on one of seven core themes – athlete-focused education; the environment; gender equality; healthy living; inclusion (disability) and inclusion (displaced and minority populations); and Olympic values education.
For the fourth year running, the IOC is grateful for the support of TOP Partner Panasonic, whose generosity has made it possible to further develop the IOC Young Leaders Programme.