After giving my views to the Government when they canvassed opinions last year for their new Strategy for Sport, I was keen to read the published article. I was confident that at least 50% of my spangly and forward thinking ideas would make the finished document but it would be tricky to find them as my printer, begrudgingly spurted out 82 pages of the report. I wonder if when producing the report, they worked in tandem with the Department of Environment, given the amount of trees decimated, as across the UK, people printed their sporting, bed time reading.
Kissing Goodbye Another Tree
Anyway, I cleared a couple of hours in my diary and set to work on ploughing through. It started with Mr Cameron and Tracey Crouch (Minister for Sport) introducing the report and reiterating why we need a strategy for a national sporting future. There are tangible reasons, such as inactivity costing the country £7.4bn a year and intangibles, such as how taking part, volunteering and being engaged in sport actually makes you feel better, both mentally and physically and integrates you more fully in the community.
As this is the War and Peace of sporting strategy documents, I will outline the main themes of the document. Essentially the Government would like to redefine what success looks like in sport by concentrating on 5 key outcomes: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development. Finally the Government have come around to redefining the measurements of sporting participation and including more activity based pursuits, such as walking and generally being active outdoors. There seems to be a major shift in thinking on this, as one size doesn’t fit all. Some people love competitive sport, some like to go to a fitness class, some like to go for a walk. It really doesn’t matter what your thing is, all of them deliver the warm fuzzy feeling and physical goals the Government is encouraging anyway.
The Government are also very worried about the underrepresented groups, including women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities but fear not, if like me you fall into this group, there is a bright future for us; in terms of funding, targeting and opportunities. If you happen to be all three, you might even have David Cameron knock on your door and take you for a jog himself! Yes, the Government are extremely keen to target these groups, whether that is greater representation in board rooms of a National Governing Body to coaching and volunteering.
It was good to see that volunteering was specifically looked at and this is to be further encouraged. I always remember the study of loneliness in older people and this is definitely an area where local sports clubs would benefit from their experience, availability and skills.
Another key goal which was mentioned and resonated with me was that Sport England’s remit will be extended from out of school sport from the age of 14, to the age of 5. Quite rightly, given that any NGB I have spoken to have all commented that kids, especially girls can already have disengaged with sport by the age of 14, so the earlier the support, the better.
The final theme that I liked was that people are starting to be looked at and treated as a “customer”. People may balk at this kind of “marketing babble” but actually, if you are looked upon as a customer, your needs are researched and the opportunities delivered are based on your needs and habits. For instance, one of the reasons I set up SofaDodger was due to the frustration of seeing perfectly good sporting initiatives offered locally but nobody turned up because nobody knew about them. If you are treated like a customer, the people who deliver the event will speak to you first and ask what your needs are, what your availability is, what price you would pay and whether you are likely to attend. This can be measured better with technology and hopefully shared to other people as best practise. It isn’t rocket science but something which I feel has been missing from this sector for so long.
There are many other themes in the document which warmed my cockles, including the promotion of sporting role models, the devolution to local authorities and agencies to deliver sport, tax breaks for employers who promote activity and volunteering to their workforce, “golden tickets” to sporting events for volunteers and a greater focus on physical literacy ABC for younger children (Agility, Balance and Co-ordination). None of these ideas were produced by my spangly, forward thinking ideas generator but I like them regardless.
All in all, an ambitious and exciting framework for our nation’s Sporting Future. Let’s hope that they can be embraced, built on and delivered. There is a lot at stake for the next generation if we don’t get it right.
To read your very own copy of the document, you can find it here
My name is Sam. I am a 35 year old, unfit, gym-phobic, mother of 3, who enjoys indulging in a glass of wine or two. I started the website sofadodger.co.uk this year, which is ironic as I am more a sofadweller than a sofadodger. So I have taken on the challenge of trying 100 different sports and fitness classes in a year. I shall be blogging about, what will be, one of the most interesting and challenging years of my life!