Widnes Vikings launched its Healthy Heart initiative recently, which aims to educate Primary School children in Halton about the benefits surrounding a healthy lifestyle, as well as the many functions of the human heart.
The opening day's events saw pupils from Fairfield Juniors, Moorfield, Spinney Avenue and St Bedes raising their pulses by participating in a series of activities, combining practical multi-skills and dietary advice from Vikings’ Player Welfare Officer Tim Holmes and U19s player Kieran Butterworth.
Keen to make more of an impression and engage with a wider section of the community, the Vikings’ Community Team has increased the numbers within its workforce for 2013. In previous years the Valhalla Foundation set-up often contained as few as just 2 personnel, going forward this number has now swelled to 16 active Community Coaches, which includes 10 players currently on the club’s AASE Programme (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence).
One of the leaders behind the Healthy Heart programme is Vikings’ Head of Youth Performance Phil Finney, who explains more, “Our main goal is to ensure that all the pupils taking part in the Healthy Heart events enjoy themselves first and foremost. Aside from that, we are keen to ensure they understand and take on board the advice our Community Team are giving them with regards to leading a healthy lifestyle and the complications that can arise from not doing so.
“Through its sessions and associated activities, the Healthy Heart initiative aims to inform and educate the youngsters of the many healthy activity choices available to them. As a result of making better lifestyle selections, they will also improve their health and wellbeing.
"There are many examples and model professionals already out there for Halton children, and it is absolutely vital that we educate our region’s youngsters who could be our 'stars of the future' as early as we can about the benefits and consequences surrounding their lifestyle choices.
"We hope that our continued efforts will result in more children taking an interest in sporting activities, which will assist in reducing the increasing rates of obesity to a less worrying figure."
Sharing Finney’s enthusiasm is Vikings’ Chief Executive James Rule, who added; “I passionately believe that a strong, diverse and expanding community programme is a key avenue for us to grow the Widnes Vikings brand. It is essential that we are engaged with as wide a cross section of the local community as possible and the expansion of this area of the club’s operation has been a major focus in the close season.
“There is a huge amount of synergy between the objectives of the Youth Performance team and our Community team. The Youth coaches seek to engage with young people, get them active and put them on a pathway of activity that will improve their health and potentially lead them to professional sport. Likewise, our Community team have objectives to facilitate activity, improve nutrition and raise aspirations through their work.
“It therefore made sense for these two departments to work more closely together, significantly improving our efficiencies and outputs in the delivery of the respective programmes. This joint-working, alongside the significant investment from Maltacourt, Halton Housing Trust and the NHS, has enabled us to dramatically improve the resource we have at our disposal. The club’s Valhalla Foundation team built some fantastic foundations last season but were restricted in their output by the resource at their disposal.
“Through supporting the significant expansion of the team, we are now able to deliver to far more schools and organisations within the region. To illustrate the difference in our output, last year it would have taken us the majority of the calendar year to engage every Primary School in the region, whereas this year, having started in early January we are confident of reaching practically every school by February half term.
“This is hugely exciting for our partners and for the wider community, as it will enable a significantly increased amount of work to take place. I believe that the work and financial investment in our Community programme which has taken place in the close season will allow us to go from strength to strength and we can now clearly demonstrate to potential public and private sector partners that we have a huge reach into the borough of Halton. I would hope this will facilitate more investment which will allow us to put more staff into the community and further improve our output. In turn, this will assist our objective of improving health, aspiration and education in the region.
“I would like to reiterate my thanks to Matt Beech at Maltacourt, Nick Atkin at Halton Housing Trust and Pam Worrall at the NHS for playing such an integral role in allowing us to drive this programme forward.
“I look forward to working with our team to develop even more exciting programmes to take into our community.”
John Morgan is the Official Club Doctor at the Vikings and he is also keen to endorse the ‘Healthy Heart’ programme, stating; "I am delighted that Widnes Vikings take the important issue of cardiac screening seriously and that every member of playing staff, from the scholars through to the First Team are to undergo tests to check for the presence of cardiac abnormalities that could otherwise lead to sudden cardiac death.
“Approximately 1 in 300 people may have an undetected heart condition. The tests the players will have are able to detect many of the cardiac abnormalities most likely to affect young people.
"Cardiac screening is about decreasing the risk of suffering a sudden cardiac death. Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest on the field of play has raised public awareness and highlights the need for players' heart health to continually be assessed by their clubs."
Speaking on behalf of Maltacourt, Chief Executive Matt Beech commented; “This community counts on organisations like Maltacourt and the Vikings to give something back.
“The Valhalla Foundation brings the best of both together to change lives through sport, and I'm proud to be part of that."
Nick Atkin, Chief Executive at Halton Housing Trust said: “We are really proud to be working so closely with the Vikings. Their Healthy Hearts programme really compliments our mission at the Trust which is all about ‘Improving People’s Lives’.
“Healthy living is a fundamental aspect of how we can improve the quality of our customer’s lives. We know this is a challenge across Halton so it is great that Widnes Vikings are tackling this issue head on.
“We are also really excited about our on-going relationship with the Vikings and of course the start of what we are sure will be a highly successful season.”
Pam Worrall, Health Improvement Manager at Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust, added; “Halton’s Health Improvement Team is dedicated to helping local people lead a healthy and active life, so we are delighted to be working in partnership with Widnes Vikings.
“We’ve been working with the Vikings as part of our Fit4Life programme, to encourage young people and their families in Halton to take part in physical activity and learn about healthier lifestyles. If we can encourage our children to get fit and healthy from a young age, they are more likely to remain fit and healthy into adulthood.”
Should you believe that your Primary School would benefit from a Vikings Healthy Heart team visit, or for further information, please contact Head of Youth Performance Phil Finney, via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, please call: 0151 495 2250.