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Olympic legacy – what if?

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   No Comments   |  Posted on: Aug 16, 2012

coachLegacy – how many times over the last couple of weeks have you heard that word bandied about?
I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to keep up with all the different views on what the Olympic legacy should be – what it should look like and who it should involve. Should I listen to Sir Steve Redgrave, or David Cameron, or Boris Johnson, or Baroness Sue Campbell or Matthew Parrish?
What does it mean anyway? Legacy – is that not something to do with what you get left in a will – usually to do with money?
Maybe that’s why there are so many different views, because in the end it all boils down to pounds and pennies. And whilst sports people and athletes want the money to continue to build on our Olympic success, the politicians and economists are keeping an eye on the public purse and value for money.
So what if we could have a legacy that wouldn’t eat into the public budget too much – certainly not any more than School Sport Partnerships did. As an ex-manager of a School Sport Partnership, I’m well aware of exactly how much money was poured into the initiative over the years, and how it had to be spent. And I’m also aware that money doesn’t actually provide any long term solutions to problems: it’s a sticking plaster that provides a short term quick fix, makes everybody feel that things are getting sorted underneath, and it looks for all intents and purposes like an effective remedy.
But what if there were ways to provide a longer term legacy? What if we maintain the health of sport in this country without the sticking plaster – what if we already have the resources to do that, and we just don’t realise it yet?
What if we had a ‘self sustaining, self improving, sport system’? What if we had a system that didn’t rely primarily on facilities, club houses, school fields, or resources to make it work? Because at the end of the day, these can all be used as excuses – we do we have enough top level athletics tracks, or sporting clubs or top notch equipment? Did Usain Bolt, did Pele, did Haile Gebrselassie? Do facilities and resources make great athletes – or do people?
What if we looked to the people in the system to make it work? What if the only way to truly make the system self sustaining and self improving is to use people to make the difference? How can that work?
Who’s out there and what can they do?
1.Those doing activity already, whether its competitive games or ‘Indian dance’ – what if you all brought a friend to your activity? Because we all know that deep down people just want to belong, and are inherently tribal. So what if you encouraged a friend to be part of your sporting ‘gang’? Whether you’re 11 or 81, what if you took a friend with you next time you went? Can you do your bit to share the joy and increase the number of people taking part in sport?
2.Parents – the lifeblood of the kids in our sporting system. They ferry athletes around, provide support and sustenance, as well as washing kit, volunteering and being a sounding board. But what about those who don’t. We know that the mother has a significant impact on whether children participate in sport or not, so how can we encourage them to be more active or to get their kids more active? Do we start with them once they are mothers or can we find a way to make them fall in love with sport before they bear children? How do we sell sport to females, to make it fun and attractive, and something they value and believe in?
3.Peer advocates – can we use children already on elite pathways to persuade others of the benefits of sport? We know the Olympians have been inspirational, but if you actually know someone who is achieving in sport, who comes from your school, your area, is in your class, and is just like you, isn’t it much easier to relate to them? We might all want to be Usain Bolt, but for someone from Lancashire, is it easier to relate to Bradley Wiggins? How could we harness the potential that already exists in our schools and clubs?
4.School governors and Headteachers – you’ve all heard the calls for more PE and sport in schools haven’t you? And should that be prescriptive, or be left up to the discretion of the headteacher? What if we had school governors who were critical friends to Headteachers when it came to PE and sport in schools? What could they do to be advocates for it? What could they do to ensure that the young people get opportunities to be physically literate with great PE lessons taught by enthusiastic teachers? Can they influence who is appointed as school staff so that they will add sporting value to the school?
5.The profession leading the profession – sounds confusing? What if the school sport partnership model was rationalised? What if local primary teachers with a track record of being outstanding in PE lead other primary school teachers? What if secondary PE specialists lead other PE specialists? What if outstanding coaches lead other coaches?  All on a local basis – think local educational leaders, making local decisions about what’s best for local pupils, and local participants. What if we had regional leaders or associates who could see how it fits into the bigger picture, make links and support the networks, and the competition managers already in place? What if, rather than top down imposed initiatives, we use the human resources we’ve got already to build from the bottom up? Credible practitioners who really walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk, or the politically correct jargon.
Does any of this sound familiar or possible? For those of you who have been on a Middle Leadership Development Programme run by the National College, some of it might ring a few bells. Because that programme is all about those in the system leading progress and development at all levels of the system to build on what works and to ‘close the gap’ between where you want to be and where you are now.
We’ve never been so successful in the Olympics before – surely that must mean we have some amazing people in our sporting system already?
You might be one of these people – so what’s your role in the Olympic legacy?

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