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Burk Gravis: Giving Opportunities to Young People through Sport

Burk Gravis: Giving Opportunities to Young People through Sport


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Burk Gravis, the CEO of Haringey Sports Development Trust. Let’s learn what’s happening there and how Burk is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Burk! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization? 

Burk: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! First and foremost, we aim to give every youngster the opportunity to participate in 29 sports and achieve whatever their ambitions are. We also provide opportunities to gain coaching qualifications and work experience, which then lead to employment part-time and eventually full-time. Additionally, we have developed a structure that can lead them to a role as an ambassador, where they gain confidence and experience in becoming the future of sport and ensuring healthy lifestyles.

Spiffy: That’s awesome! What motivates you to do it?

Burk: It all began while I was working in industry but not exactly in an environment conducive to effecting long-term change. I always had a passion for sport and wanted to make a positive difference. My first opportunity to do so came with the Haringey Council in Leisure, where I worked in two Dual Sports centers and got involved in sport development/,outreach work. Sadly, cuts came into force and redundancy followed. Further, in 1991 my father passed away, making it the worst year of my life. But, my reaction was positive. In 1994, the Trust gained charitable status. This had begun with just a bag of balls and an electronic typewriter working from my living room. I always had great belief and passion in succeeding; to do so, I worked within the existing system when needed and out of it when needed.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Burk: To date, we have become one of the strongest organizations in London in delivery. WE have existed for 28 years with a small team affecting 53 primary schools, ten senior schools, and four special needs schools in the Borough. The Borough has a reputation of success in sport with a programme that ranges from primary school ages to college. It has developed coaches and officials who have gone on to employment in sport and industry, working in partnership with a variety of organizations therein. We currently have back to back London Youth Games champions here; this is the biggest competition for youth in Europe. 

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Burk: We are proud to have London Youth Games back to back champions. We are the first inner London borough to achieve this, which in turn has increased participation at the school and club levels. It has created ambassadors who are coaching in their respective sport at school and club levels and have gone on to set up their own sports organizations. By achieving success in this way, the impact has been enormous with youngsters and parents now increasing their involvement in the sports. We are also encouraging non-sporty youngsters to try sport as well.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Burk: Throughout the years, my driving force has been my belief in and love of sport as well as wanting to work with young people. I want them to know they should just believe in themselves and never give up. Nothing is impossible! They should have the desire to achieve and effect change and never be deterred from their aims. Just live the dream!

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Burk—it’s been an honor! 

Burk Gravis’ only ambition is to make a difference and give opportunities to young people. He wants to give them a belief that nothing is impossible in sport. He wants them to believe in themselves and those around them and never be deterred—even when ruffling feathers at top levels—as the future is with young people. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 28, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.