On the day Wales plays England Laura McAllister says we need an unprecedented shift in our sporting culture
Top level sport is all about pushing the boundaries physically and mentally. Athletes train by setting goals and targets to add tiny improvements in their physique, speed and technique that might make the difference between gold and silver. Developing systems to help achieve the highest goals is commonplace in sport. So it should come as no surprise that Sport Wales and the whole sports sector are doing just that.
If you were to paint a picture of the perfect sporting Wales, what would it look like? I’m sure a bountiful medal haul from London 2012 and from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 would be in there somewhere, a thumping win over England or the All Blacks maybe, or a long awaited appearance at the FIFA World Cup.
Look even deeper than that and you’ll get to the ideal sporting Wales that has been debated, and discussed over the last few months. Sport Wales has been consulting with organisations, groups and individuals from within the sports sector, from the governing bodies to leisure managers to London 2012 Young Ambassadors as well as senior politicians, to help draft A Vision for Sport in Wales.
This Vision has brought stakeholders together to focus our efforts on helping to create an ideal sporting Wales. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that healthy progress has been made –in terms of both getting more young people regularly taking part in sport to increasing excellence on the world stage.
In 2000, 72 per cent of seven to 11 year-olds participated in a club. By 2009, this had risen to 80 per cent. But that’s not enough and it would be easy to get complacent. With progress comes the challenge. As a sector we need to continually look at new ways of engaging with children and young people so that everyone enjoys the health and social benefits that taking part in sport can bring.
We want to see an unprecedented shift in culture. We want bigger and better outcomes so every child in Wales is hooked on sport for life. Our Vision is intended to reinvigorate both ourselves and our partners.
We want every child and young person to be able to access at least five hours of sport every week. To achieve this, we need not only statutory partners working together, but also all families and communities in Wales creating and facilitating sporting opportunities.
We need our political decision makers in all sectors to champion the intrinsic value of sport, not only in and around schools but making the links to community provision as well, so that five hours a week is easily accessible for all children and young people.
Sport plays a crucial role not only in improving the health of the nation, but also in learning new skills, in bringing communities together and helping to support economic development.
The power of sport is something that is often underestimated and we want to see this being better harnessed to support the delivery of outcomes across Government portfolios. We want to see a sector that is confidently communicating the power of sport and the impact it has on our communities
Of course, the whole public sector clearly faces some significant challenges in the coming years and sport is no different. It is only through working together that we will overcome the challenges ahead. None of this will be achieved overnight but, working together as a sports sector, we can deliver far more and help make Wales a smart, fit, healthy nation.
In sport, standing still really isn’t an option.
You can follow Laura McAllister on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LauraMcAllister. You’ll find Sport Wales at www.facebook.com/sportwales and www.twitter.com/sport_wales