Historically sport, and in particular rowing, was an important part of the offering of the Inner London Education Authority providing young people from the East End of London with opportunities they might otherwise not have had. The first Muslim to represent Great Britain in the Olympic games, Salih Hassan (1984) came to rowing through that pathway.

With the 1986 abolishment of the Greater London Council the Borough of Hackney proved unable to carry on many of the activities previously offered by ILEA which drove members of the Lea Rowing Club to start a charity seeking to fill the void which became Youth Experience in Sport.

Youth Experience in Sport concentrated initially on junior rowing, funding projects at the Lea Rowing club including youth coach funding, outreach programs with local schools, training camp funding, environmental awareness programs to compliment rowing, basic development courses, and courses catering for differing religious backgrounds.

The sole focus on rowing continued until 2007. Conscious of the ultimate objective and awareness of the shortage of sports opportunities in East London, particularly non-ball sports, YES looked to other areas to help get youth involved in organised sport to expand their offering.