Programme aims to boost confidence and improve physical activity in Sheffield girls

Sheffield girls are being given the chance to boost their confidence and increase their exercise levels with a new programme launched within

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 11:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 11:28 am
Girls from Stocksbridge Junior School take part in the Mini Mermaid Running Club. Picture Scott Merrylees

Mini Mermaid Running Club has launched in four schools in the city, offering programmes for girls aged between seven and 11 in a bid to increase self-esteem and physical activity during their formative years. 

Pupils at Hinde House Primary, Beck Primary, Oughtibridge Primary and Stocksbridge Junior School all began the eight-week long curriculum at the beginning of February which includes group discussion, journal work, games and workouts. 

Girls from Stocksbridge Junior School take part in the Mini Mermaid Running Club. Picture Scott Merrylees

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Research has cited girls’ poor confidence as a major factor in the decline in physical activity and, according to the Youth Sport Trust, this lack of physical activity can lead to poor mental health and low aspirations in later life. 

So, to combat this Mini Mermaids uses physical activity combined with mindfulness to strengthen their emotional and mental well-being. 

It was launched in the UK in 2015 by Leeds mum Hannah Corne, who was inspired by the idea from the states as something that could benefit her daughter who has selective mutism and struggles to communicate with adults. 

Two years later it gained support from the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, who offered a grant to fund the new programmes. 

Now, more than 1,400 children have completed them in schools and community centres in Leeds, Cardiff, London and the Wirral with more expected in Sheffield. 

Key elements of the programme include two characters who represent the girls’ inner cheerleader and their inner critic teaching them to learn and acknowledge both voices, while developing strategies to following their positive voice. 

The curriculum also trains the girls for a 5km challenge, which they complete however they choose – walk, run skip or jog.

Outcomes include teaching the girls self belief, greater resilience and to have better peer relations. 

Hannah Corne, Executive Director of Mini Mermaid Running Club UK, said: “From the beginning, we’ve taken a 360 approach, with a collective focus on mental, emotional and physical strength and how they interconnect.

“This allows us to have a positive impact and influence on girls before they drop out of physical activity and begin to lose their self-confidence.

“We encourage them to understand that physical activity isn’t about how far they run or how fast they are but how it makes them feel and what they can accomplish.’

“At these groups we have a lot of social media conversations with the girls.Our goal is to cover self esteem and resilience and help them understand their own value when they look at external influences on social media.

“We want to teach them to look at these and respond in their own way, so they can see it in a objective way and realise that what they see is only a tiny part of what is actually happening.”

Vicki Robinson, Manager of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, said: “One of our core aims at the Jane Tomlinson Appeal is improving the physical and mental health and well-being of children. Mini Mermaids helps us achieve just that.

“We’ve already seen the benefits Mini Mermaids has brought to communities elsewhere and we’re really pleased to be able to provide the funding to allow primary school age girls in Sheffield to benefit from this programme, too.”

Gleadless Primary and St Theresa's Catholic Primary will also be starting programmes later this year.

Schools wanting to get involved can email [email protected]