Unfortunately national conferences, attended by ministers and industry heavyweights are rarely hosted in Truro, so I made the familiar trek up to London for the National Summit, delivered by ukactive. The stellar line-up of speakers included the Minister of Sport, Tracey Crouch MP, the Minister of Health, Julie Ellison MP, the Chair of ukactive, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Jennie Price, CEO of Sport England. If we were to find out what the higher echelon of policy makers were prioritising, this was the place to be.
An Impressive Venue
After shunning the lift and opting for the stairs out of the tube station, I made my way to the Emirates Stadium, where I continued to shun the muffin breakfast option and opted for a banana instead. So far, so healthy. After a bit of networking, we made our way to the conference area and listened intently to the Ministers speak in turn. They spoke in an impassioned way about raising awareness of inactivity levels and the need to cut through confusing media messages, to get to the truth of what levels people should be aiming for each week. Achievable when you consider the 5-a-day awareness drive. We all know we should eat 5 –a-day, whether we do or not, is a different story.
It was reassuring to hear that this was a “top tier” priority for Government and that both departments were working off the same page. The morning continued with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson introducing their new Blueprint for An Active Britain, which I will be reading over the weekend. There was a group intake of breath when Tanni announced that “Sport was Dead” If there was a fullstop at the end of those three words, it would have made for a headline grabbing statement and a possible punch up with the Sport England lot but fortunately there were three fullstops, indicating just a pause “Sport is Dead…In Its Current Offering”.
I agree with this and I personally think that sport needs to relook at its offering. Nearly all of the sports I tried had a familiar formula at training; warm-up, drills, match-play, warm-down and all with a league game at the weekend in mind. I would love to go back to a number of sports but the thought of being trained up to play competitively is off putting. Back to Hockey and Back to Netball programmes are great, but they all have the same pipeline of moving people into the club to train and ultimately match play and that doesn't work for me as a mother of three.
The morning session finished with a very polished presentation/pitch – or "pitchatation" by eGym and a thoroughly absorbing insight into our digital futures by Dr James Bellini – apparently, we have to look forward to 3D printing our dinner and vertical farming! We finished and in the break, I was bouyant with enthusiasm, yet tinged with regret that I had not smuggled in one of those muffins earlier, as the fruit bowls reappeared.
To take us to lunch, we had a breakout session and I chose to sit into a very interesting discussion about how activity can play a leading role in health. Recurring themes started to come out, about how activity is the “magic pill”, with studies pointing to remarkable benefits, with regard to emotional and physical wellbeing. There was a lot of talk about engaging with the ageing population and so far my favourite phrase of the morning was “Show me an active person and I will show you someone who isn’t lonely”. All of this reminded me of visiting the croquet and bowls club and how I felt exactly the same about their participation.
Activity is the "Miracle Cure"
I managed to meet some really interesting people at lunch, not all of whom shared my blind enthusiasm. They had obviously been around the block a bit and although they were behind all of the good words, they were also looking for action and implementation. Fruit was served on a stick this time.
The afternoon session continued in the same vain, with common themes coming through, or “golden threads” which included a need for a cradle to grave approach and that we needed a down-up approach, not a top down approach to participation. This was discussed by the inspirational founder of Parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt and the impressively eloquent Chris Grant, CEO of Sported. They had examples of real, local initiatives, which work because people take ownership of them and get behind them. A member of the audience, mentioned that the likes of Street Games, Tough Mudder and Parkrun, coupled with their strides in social media are starting to change the face of sport and activity in this country.
Another Great Panel Session
I sat and listened intently and all of this really resonated with my own little crusade of getting kids to sample a range of sports with the Mini SofaDodger Challenge! I truly believe that there is an activity there for everybody. We must never forget that playing sport and being active should be, above all, fun.
The day ended with a drinks reception, which I had to abstain from, given the 5 hour journey which was ahead of me. I found the day thoroughly enlightening and very worthwhile. I am heartened to hear that there is a real intent to make a difference to our nation’s health.
I couldn’t face the stairs on the way home though and sought out the lift, whilst carefully trying not to spill any Oreo crumbs, which I had urgently purchased at the newsagents…Rome wasn’t built in a day people!
For more information on the Blueprint, you can visit the ukactive website 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!