Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.
What a wonderful summer of sport, with Team GB winning second place in both the Olympics and the Paralympics.
And, of course, a Briton clinched the Tour de France for the second successive year, Andy Murray won Wimbledon for the second time, and the England cricket team achieved four out of five wins in the one-day games against Pakistan.
Lost in all this excitement is the fact that, for the first time in rugby history, two of our home nations – England and Ireland – recorded victories over Tri-Nations opponents in the Southern Hemisphere on the same day.
England beat Australia on their own territory, with a resounding 39/28 score under the strong leadership of Aussie, Eddie Jones, who has restored confidence and a winning ethos in the team, as well as hope for more accolades amongst its supporters.
Sadly, the less said about our England football team the better, despite the huge wealth of players, but well done to Wales…
Given their success, all these winners, emboldened by their clutch of medals and awards could justifiably develop a bit of a swagger, but they haven’t. During interviews, Eddie Jones, Andy Murray, cricketers, the Welsh football captain, and our Olympians and Paralympians are modest people.
Thrilled, emotional and excited, they talk about their commitment and hard work, a determination to overcome injury and previous setbacks, whilst praising all the people in their lives who have inspired them.
Now it is their turn to inspire the next generation of sportsmen and women. Generous in spirit, they have already proved themselves as role models for young people, encouraging budding gymnasts, cyclists, athletes, swimmers – mentoring and encouraging.
How can local authorities capitalise on this success to engage the wider population, to improve health and self-discipline, as well as aspiration and leadership skills?
Sport teaches us to take pride in success, and accept defeat with a determination that it won’t happen again; everyone fails at something, sometime, and failure can be positive because it helps us to learn from our mistakes and do better next time.
Despite the England team’s shortcomings, football remains our national game and is consequently played more widely, but local authorities can enable greater participation by encouraging more variety in the sports on offer. Public sports centres are dominated by football, rather than offering pitches for rugby and/or cricket, hockey or rounders. Even tennis is usually relegated to a couple of courts at best, but it isn’t generally promoted, yet this is a game anyone can play and enjoy well into middle age. We also need to identify and sponsor the next generation of Wimbledon winners.
Local authorities should liaise with the various bodies overseeing individual sports, as well as colleges and universities, to see what funds and expert support could be available, whilst also encouraging state schools and academies to work with private schools, to share their sports facilities and coaching, in the same way that many collaborate on music and the arts.
Rugby, cricket and tennis clubs (and bowls) are always looking for new members and fresh talent, but families aren’t necessarily aware of them, nor how to join. The public sector could help to raise their profile, supporting open days and special shared events, whilst the LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) could perhaps allocate a modest budget to enable people in disadvantaged areas to have preferential membership deals.
Working with Safer Neighbourhood Teams, sports groups can help to reduce antisocial behaviour, identify any mental health issues or even abuse amongst young people, so problems can be addressed early and success celebrated.
Engaging in sport helps people to keep fit, it broadens social life, reduces loneliness, and provides mentoring/volunteering opportunities across the age range. Importantly, it gives youngsters confidence, ambition, encourages leadership skills, and provides a break from the i-phone, reducing obesity.
Employers complain that too many young people don’t communicate (some even complain at the lack of common sense and the ability to think for themselves) so playing sport a couple of times a week can help to rectify such shortcomings, building teamwork. Most of all, sport can be fun, both to play and to watch.
Investing in sport actually saves money in the long run, provided everyone remembers the need to include those who are disabled and wheelchair dependent, with the right facilities and support.
Health and Wellbeing boards should have sport on their agendas, perhaps encouraging GPs to promote it, and the opportunities to participate, in their surgeries. It wouldn’t cost anything.