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Empowering Youth Through Judo

Tayside Judo project aimed to enhance young people's mental health 

Tayside Judo, in collaboration with Perth & Kinross Active Schools, have launched a comprehensive and long-term project aimed at positively impacting the lives of young individuals.

Commencing in Easter 2023 at Perth Grammar School, the project encompasses a multifaceted approach. It focuses on providing opportunities for community integration and restoration, enhancing mental health and wellbeing, offering diversionary and alternative activities to school pupils, fostering the development of employability and broader life skills, and ultimately contributing to the creation of stronger communities.

The initial 12-week program features a group of 10 young people, hailing from intricate and diverse backgrounds. These young people exhibit mental health challenges and have been referred to CAMHS Tayside (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and are currently following part-time or alternative timetables at school.

The project aims to deliver judo and strength and conditioning sessions to targeted pupils every week over a whole academic year. During those sessions, Tayside Judo educates young people about respect, and the importance of being a responsible citizen, utilising the judo moral code. Working with pupils who come from often complex and diverse backgrounds, Tayside Judo has created sessions that are fun and engaging for students whose attendance at school averages less than 50%.

Perth Grammar School have reported that the pupils generally have improved their listening, speaking and general communication skills. This has had a positive effect on the rest of their experience in school, with teachers stating the pupils involved are showing signs of compliance and on days they are training, come in early to help set up the equipment on the day; a pattern of behaviours that had not been prevalent in the group before.

Tayside Judo coaches, David Scobbie and Aiden Moffat, have been working with the group following successful taster sessions. Both have used judo as a platform to create a supportive environment where students feel valued and accepted, fostering a sense of belonging and self-worth. They openly reflect on their own experiences and want to steer students away from negative paths and show how judo can have a profoundly positive impact on wider society.

Speaking on the initiation of the programme, David said: “It all stemmed from a conversation with the Active School’s Coordinator Bartosz who knew we were delivering judo in primary schools as taster sessions. He told us there was a group of secondary school kids with complex needs and he thought judo would be good for them. We did a couple of taster sessions with them, and the school saw the value in it and invited us to come back and do a permanent block.

At first none of the kids wanted to be first up at the risk of embarrassing themselves, however now the kids understand judo is so different to anything they have ever done before, it’s a clean slate; with this it’s a level playing field with no one having experience in the sport, it’s a fresh start for everyone.”


Fellow coach Aiden Moffat adds, “I think it also offers them a place to vent their frustrations. For a lot of these guys, they think they have nowhere to turn, but the mat is a safe place for them to do it.”

“I think it helps, coming from the same area and being close in age, we’re relatable to them. We have had similar backgrounds, making it easier for me and David to relate to them. I’ve been through stuff and maybe done things I shouldn’t have done that they’ve done too, but judo steered me away from it.”


Chief Executive of Judo Scotland, Judith McCleary, said: “The work that Tayside and many other judo clubs are doing across Scotland align with our aims to positively impact Scottish society. The moral code of judo is inherent within the sport with a set of values including courtesy, courage, honesty, honour, modesty, respect, self-control, and friendship.


These values make judo an ideal platform through which young people can develop lifelong skills. It’s amazing to see the impact that judo has had in supporting pupils to develop a range of skills through the Tayside Judo Project, made possible through a truly collaborative local partnership approach.”


Chief Executive of sportscotland Forbes Dunlop said: “The collaborative work between Judo Scotland and Perth and Kinross Active Schools is a fantastic example of how our partners are working together to use the power of sport and physical activity to support young people both with their physical health and their mental wellbeing.”


Tayside Judo were recently awarded the Perth and Kinross Sport for Change award, recognising their effort in providing young individuals with opportunities for personal growth and development. The club promote physical fitness and valuable life skills such as discipline, respect, and resilience through judo sessions that are specifically tailored to address the diverse needs of participants.

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