Next up in our #InsideTheIndustry series, which takes a look at the impacts of Covid-19 on various parts of the sports sector, we caught up with Lauren, Head of Content at Gulf Youth Sport.

Gulf Youth Sport is a wide-ranging media platform in the Middle East dedicated to all things youth sport, from PE programmes within schools to elite sports academies in the UAE and across the Gulf. Lauren is the brains behind many of the articles and features on GYS, keeping on top of everything newsworthy in the world of youth sport.

Lauren has been based in her homeland of Australia for most of the pandemic due to travel-related restrictions, meaning she has been forced to keep up to date remotely across a number of timezones! She very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to let us know how Covid has affected her work…

How have the last 12 months affected Gulf Youth Sport and its activities?

The temporary halt of all competition and training changed the way we covered sport in the Middle East. Instead of being on the ground at events, the GYS platform focused on publicising positive sporting stories and finding the committed young athletes and teachers who were continuing to keep up their fitness despite the circumstances.

We covered virtual tournaments, ran campaigns to support sports academies and presented daily workouts to help the community keep active. But the highlight has been covering the reopening of sporting academies and return to PE in schools across recent months.

With so much uncertainty in the sports world, has it been a challenging time to work in sports media?

Initially the thought of no competitive sport to cover for an extended period caused uncertainty. However, there are always times when sports news is slower including over the Christmas break or when the football season ends and you need to find creative ways to develop content.

The past year has shown how adaptable the industry can be given the sports sections of newspapers, magazines and websites have continually been updated despite the decrease in sport. In saying that, nothing beats the thrill of broadcasting from a live match or writing about a competitive league!

What have you been doing to manage working from home – has it been difficult to adapt to online meetings and media sessions?

It’s hard to even remember a time when online meetings and interviews weren’t just normal practice so I think I’ve become quite accustomed to working this way.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to chat to some people that are normally hard to catch because they’re busy doing so many things during normal times. To manage working from home, I’ve tried to replicate the office as best I can and work in a quiet space to help me focus.

With schools and academies all over the Middle East looking for creative ways to keep their players active, how important has it been for GYS to give them a platform over the last year?

It has potentially been the most important time at GYS to really showcase schools and academies that had their operations shut down. We thought it was vital to show academies were still present and were ready to reopen with all the necessary precautions when given the all clear.

We did this most prominently through our Support Your Sports Academy campaign which publicised academies struggles and allowed parents and young athletes to show their support.

How important is it to have a community within GYS which allow parents, coaches and players to share best practice?

The GYS community has certainly been a haven of positivity throughout this time, showing support and encouragement for all the efforts teachers, coaches and academies have been putting in to keep kids active.

It’s been a great forum for leaders of schools and sporting organisations to demonstrate ways they are adapting to new rules allowing them to operate safely and students have been able to see opportunities to become involved in virtual challenges.

GYS is home to large numbers of young aspiring media people, how pleased are you that the GYS media programme has continued to allow young people to gain experience in sports media in such difficult circumstances?

Having launched the GYS Sports Media Course during tough lockdowns last year it’s been fantastic to have an avenue where students can still connect with sport while not being able to play. Students have shown incredible skill covering sport, as well as initiative to find creative ways to complete the course, even when there’s been no live sport to attend.

Often this has meant siblings and parents stepping in to be the focus of videos, pictures and articles! As we continue to offer the course, I’m pleased that more students will have the opportunity to cover sport, particularly given they’ll be back competing or analysing sport from the sidelines in no time. 

Gulf Youth Sport is an online platform dedicated to raising the profile of youth sport in the Middle East. GYS aim to celebrate rising stars and encourage increased participation and enjoyment levels in sport and exercise.

You can keep up to date with Gulf Youth Sport by visiting their website here.

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