The controversy over government funding of youth sport continues, but the pumping in of cash alone won’t inevitably ensure success when it comes to getting kids moving. I started to enjoy sport rather late in life, and if I have any regrets, the main one is that I didn’t get active sooner; but what was lacking in the early days was not opportunity but inspiration - the vital difference between having to do something, and wanting to do it. This makes the Olympics, and indeed any mega sporting event, an ideal opportunity to change the way people – and especially impressionable youngsters - think about physical activity. The drama of the situation, the excitement, the buzz; this puts a spin on physical exercise which makes it a more enticing prospect than dire warnings about obesity, or a compulsory PE lesson on a cold Monday morning.
The effects of seeing a sporting drama unfold have an inevitability about them: look at the take up of tennis courts after Wimbledon fortnight; the Olga Korbut effect on the gymnastics ambitions of young girls. In short, the flight of the imagination has to take place before people feel the urge to take up something that is often hard, demanding and uncomfortable (as physical exercise is, there’s no denying it) and win through to the rewards – self esteem, fitness, joy (which physical exercise brings, there’s no denying that either).
What puts spin on the need to do exercise? I suggest: to watch sport in action; to listen to sportspeople talking; to read about it the experiences of those who do it, high and low. There are lots of books out there about the sporting achievements of ordinary and extraordinary people. I’ve been fascinated, and inspired by, the following:
Taylor, Russell. The looniness of the long distance runner: an unfit Londoner's attempt to run the New York City Marathon from scratch
London: Andre Deutsch, 2001.
London reference collections shelfmark: YK.2003.a.5380
Grey-Thompson, Tanni, Aim high
Bedlinog: Accent, 2007
London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2007.a.8674
The Marathon des sables: seven days in the Sahara: enduring the toughest footrace on earth
London: Health Body Publishing, c2007
London reference collections shelfmark: YK.2009.a.19238
Born to run: the hidden tribe, the ultra-runners, and the greatest race the world has never seen
London: Profile, 2009
London reference collections shelfmark: YK.2010.a.16168