The Gulf Youth Sport Expo brought industry leaders, staff, coaches and athletes together under the same roof at Hartland International School on Friday 17th September for a day of discussions, planning and forward-thinking.
In the Expo’s inaugural year, the UAE’s youth sports community came together for the first time in more than 18 months to discuss the current state of school and academy sports and to pave the way for a brighter, more collaborative future for the country’s young people.
Hosted by ARN’s Head of Sport Chris McHardy, the day kicked off with opening speeches from Ahmad Ibrahim Busherin, Head of Community Events at Dubai Sports Council and Andrew Cook, Managing Director of Gulf Youth Sport.
Both Busherin and Cook emphasised the importance of collaborative working within the UAE’s sporting communities. With some of the best teachers and coaches using excellent facilities in many parts of the country, there is already a platform to allow more young athletes to become active members of the community by taking part in sport which gives any future activities an excellent starting point.
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges in the last 18 months but what it has also allowed people to do is to step back and evaluate the way which school sport and academies are being organised, with a chance to make positive changes as the nation emerges from the restrictions which have impacted sport for so long.
Chris McHardy was joined on stage in Hartland’s auditorium for an opening panel discussion on ‘The Importance of Youth Sport in the UAE’ by Shane O’Brien, 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist and Director of JESS Dubai and Susanne Skelding, Director of Active Sports Services LLC.
O’Brien and Skelding agreed the opportunities for young athletes in the UAE are a huge positive, with both guests very excited about the future for grassroots sport.
With so many schools and clubs filled with sports mad young people there are endless possibilities for the youth sports industry if everyone is willing to come together for the common good in each of their respective sports.
The remainder of the morning was filled with sport and industry specific discussion panels, all with the goal of taking the initial small steps required to move forward in schools and academies thanks to open conversations at the start of the new academic year and sports season.
Throughout the course of the day the Exhibition Zone was in action in Hartland International School’s atrium providing coaches, teachers and athletes the chance to explore the many service providers on site from coaching academies to the latest data analysis software and match recording equipment.
The discussions continued throughout the afternoon for coaches and school staff, with sports taster sessions and challenges taking place in the sports hall for the young people present, with athletes trying their hand at something new or testing themselves against their peers.
Speaking of the first ever GYS Expo, Gulf Youth Sport Managing Director Andrew Cook said he was delighted to see so many people from across the spectrum of grassroots sport coming together ahead of the 2021/22 school year.
“It was brilliant to listen to the discussions in each of the sessions with teachers and coaches putting forward their ideas for a better, more collaborative future for our young athletes.
“We have so many good things going on in the UAE in a sporting sense and it’s really exciting to think what might be possible if we can all come together a little bit more often and share best practice and administration to ensure all of our efforts are spent on giving the young people of the UAE the best opportunities to stay active and enjoy sports.”
With large numbers of teachers giving up a day of their weekends in the interests of UAE youth sport, Cook expressed sincere thanks to everyone who made the GYS Expo come to life.
“A huge thank you to Dubai Sports Council, Hartland International School and everyone connected with the GYS Expo for all of their efforts in making Friday’s event a reality.
“Without the support from Niall Statham, Ed Mosely and all of our speakers, panelists and exhibitors we would have no Expo so our heartfelt thanks go to them for getting behind our vision,” Cook said.
A big thanks to our team of student media volunteers who covered the events of the day with great enthusiasm, interviewing a range of guests on camera and making sure all aspects of the Expo were given the attention they deserved.
You can catch up with the best of the action from the Gulf Youth Sport Expo 2021 by revisiting our social media coverage which can be viewed by clicking here.