Since the programme started in 2015, winter and summer programmes have been held on 27 different islands.
Sports Paths are an initiative that is designed and implemented by Sports Excellence under the scientific supervision of the 1st Orthopedic Clinic of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (UoA), with the exclusive financial support of Stavros Niarchos Foundation. It is a programme for promoting sports education through actions that boost mental and physical health. Its purpose is to improve quality of life for children on so-called “hard-to-reach islands”.
The programme promotes children’s creative engagement with sports and aims at:
- development of children’s basic motor skills
- improvement of mental well-being through free and creative play
- socialization of children (participation of children in group games)
After five years of implementation, Sports Paths now aim at becoming an integral part of each area’s daily life with a view to eventually growing into a long-term programme whose success is dependent on the mobilization and participation not only of the residents but also of the local bodies of hard-to-reach islands.
Sports Paths 2015-2020
The programme was launched in the summer of 2015, following a finding made by members of the Mobile Medical Units (MMUs), during their missions on hard-to-reach islands, of high rates of childhood obesity. The Mobile Medical Units are an initiative undertaken by Stavros Niachos Foundation in cooperation with Sports Excellence, which aims to offer health care programmes to residents of islands and remote regions all over Greece.
In these two years (2015- 2016), pioneering actions, in which a total of 3,093 children participated, were developed on 26 different islands. Several collaborators specialized in a variety of fields have worked towards their successful completion.
The programme Sports Paths – Summer 2017 (SP 2017), which lasted 3 weeks, from 26 June to 14 July, was carried out on ten (10) hard-to reach islands: Αgathonisi, Agios Efstratios, Astipalea, Donousa, Kasos, Kastelorizo, Kimolos, Lipsi, Tilos and Psara.
The programme was aimed essentially at learning to swim and staying safe in the water, since, on the one hand, swimming is vital for the residents of the islands, whereas, on the other hand, the percentages of children who know how to swim at a satisfactory level are extremely low (3%).
The programme was attended by 388 children aged from 5 to 12 years. It is noteworthy that the rate of participation stood at 83.47% of the total number of nursery and primary school children.
The programme was carried out on pre-selected beaches which met the safety criteria, in appropriately designated spaces and in schools or other public buildings. All the equipment used for the programme has been donated to the islands’ municipalities for own use.
The successful implementation of this undertaking was spearheaded by 19 physical education teachers trained in the most recent and innovative methods of improving physical skills.
The programme included, in addition to daily swimming lessons, a large number of actions, innovative and modern sports activities, which were mainly intended to provide participants with an opportunity to get acquainted with and establish a first contact with a rich variety of sports. Particular importance was attached to the issue of healthy eating in the context of well-being and a balanced lifestyle. In this respect, the programme included learning and practice in basketball, volleyball, handball, fencing, tennis, track and field and table tennis. At the same time, a broad range of kinesthetic games took place on the themes of cooperation, trust, team spirit, balance and coordination of movements. On some islands there were traditional dance lessons as well as chess lessons.
In September 2018, the annual programme Sports Paths started to be implemented on four (4) hard-to-reach islands, Agios Efstratios, Kastelorizo, Lipsi and Tilos, as a result of our effort to answer the residents’ need and call for our constant presence by their side.
The Sports Paths programme aims to trigger the overall mobilization of residents to engage in activities that improve their lives. Sports activities are a means for the physical, mental and emotional development of children. Moreover, the diptych of sports and healthy eating is the secret to good health.
Sports Paths give children and adults the opportunity to adopt as an integral part of their everyday life activities that will help them remain healthy and, at the same time, “initiate” them into using mechanisms for a positive perception of reality. Furthermore, this is, in many cases, the sole outlet not only for children but also for adults on hard-to-reach islands. Our vision is to instill in the residents of the islands the need to adopt a different perspective, one that aims at a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
The programme is now carried out on an annual basis and its duration is extended so that its goals are achieved and so that it becomes an integral part of the local island community with a view to operate autonomously in the future.
The three-week summer swimming learning programme will take place at the end of June to mid-July 2019.