Canon Medical Systems UK has renewed its support of unique sports-led community outreach programme for young people in Sheffield.

Group of children from the RESPECT Programme

Sheffield based basketball-led initiative for young people will further focus on the health benefits of increased physical activity on body and mind

Amid soaring rates of mental health issues in under 18-year-olds, Canon Medical Systems UK has renewed its links to unique community outreach initiatives for young people in disadvantaged areas of Sheffield.

In association with the professional basketball team Sheffield Sharks, the RESPECT programme will receive renewed funding for three years to support its citizenship workshops and sports sessions designed to lift young people out of a cycle of negative behaviours and attitudes. Sheffield Hatters, a semi-professional female basketball team run by volunteers, has also had a three-year funding extension from Canon Medical Systems UK to support its role-modelling initiative for local young women. Both teams have moved into a new permanent home at the Canon Medical Arena, at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park which opened in October.

“It is well known that physical health problems increase the risk of poor mental health and vice versa,” states Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK. “With mental health care referrals in young people increasing by 39% in the last year, putting even more pressure onto our finite healthcare services, it is our responsibility as an NHS supplier to keep putting something extra back into the community. This year we have seen a new chapter in Sheffield with the opening of the Canon Medical Arena, a multi-purpose sports facility and integrated Medical Diagnostic Centre under one roof. It is also the basketball home for Sheffield Hatters, Sheffield Sharks and the RESPECT initiative. It provides dedicated classrooms and on-site basketball courts to really take the aims of the outreach projects to the next level. If we can make a difference to young people and give them belief that they can achieve more in life, it is worth doing.”

Marko Backovic, Head of Community at the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks Basketball Club states, “Greater investment in RESPECT means that we will have extra time and resources to expand the scheme to more young people over the next three years. This is really important as the next cohort of 9–11-year-olds are the Covid-lockdown generation who had their development and routine when starting primary school interrupted by the Covid pandemic. We’re already seeing a difference in the social interactions of younger children from when we first start with the initiative and coax them out of their shells. Having our first permanent home for the initiative at the Canon Medical Arena in Attercliffe, an economically deprived area of Sheffield where many of our school families live, will also breathe new life into the community. A modern and tech-heavy Arena on the doorstep will help catapult aspiration in the area and really give local people something they can be proud of.”

Marko Backovic adds, “Many of the schools we support with the RESPECT programme are only able to provide the minimum 1-2 hours mandatory PE lessons per week. We can add to this with our basketball play workshops and amplify how sport and exercise can create feelings of wellbeing to improve mental health. For example, in our anger management sessions for young people we discuss feelings before and after sport to highlight that physical exercise can release hormones such as endorphins to lower stress and improve mood. This helps many more young people get more involved in playing sport to avoid hanging out on the streets and increase activity for positive physical and mental health.”

The long-term relationship between Sheffield Sharks RESPECT initiative and Canon Medical Systems UK began in 2018 and has grown in success in reaching increasing numbers of primary and secondary school children. The courses are designed to support education and life skills such as physical activity and exercise through basketball, anger management, smoking or vaping health education and online safety.

Sheffield Hatters Basketball Club has been a pioneer in women’s sport since its inception as the first female basketball team over 60 years ago. It is the most successful basketball team in the UK with over 65 titles with both players and coaches going on to represent Great Britain and England on the international stage. Canon Medical Systems UK has supported the club’s community programme for girls and women aged 6 to 60 since 2022.