Mama OWL Blog: How will we inspire a generation?

How will we inspire a generation?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Now that the London 2012 Olympics is over (only 16 days until the 2012 Paralympics though so not all bad news), I have been having a think about their "Inspire a Generation" slogan and whether or not I personally believe this will (or can...) be met.

I have read, as I am sure many others have, about how the UK is raising a generation of celebrity obsessed youth, who aspire to be the (over-paid but, more often than not, morally bankrupt) Footballers and reality TV "stars" of tomorrow, when they should be aspiring to be the next Jessica Ennis, Ed McKeever, Victoria Pendleton, Greg Rutherford, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Tom Daley, Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah... the list goes on. We have a list as long as my arm of people who have worked hard, made sacrifices, shed blood, sweat and tears to be the best at what they do, and who truly deserve to be role models to our children, but who are seemingly overlooked until the Olympics rolls around every four years.

So then I asked myself, why might this be? Personally, I think it could possibly have something to do with the fact that our mainstream television channels are chock-full with "reality tv" such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, Geordie Shore and Big Brother, and when it's not perma-tanned simpletons jumping in to bed with each other or drinking themselves into oblivion, the schedules are rammed with match after match of Football.
I honestly couldn't tell you which channel to watch to find some Athletics or Gymnastics or Cycling. Maybe I don't pay enough attention to the TV programming schedule, but during Football season I am painfully aware that you can't flick through the channels without finding at least two matches (normally in place of something that would appeal to the wider public).

Personally I have zero interest in Football, although my husband and eldest son are mad about it, but they are well catered for by the big TV networks. So what about the rest of us? The general public who do NOT enjoy Football (because I know that it is not just me)? An entire viewing audience is not having their needs met. Where are the track meets? The Gymnastics competitions? The Cycling? Both nationally and regionally, the networks could seriously benefit from televising such events more regularly and in more prominent viewing slots. I know that I would watch them, and I would definitely encourage my children to watch them too.

The Olympics are fantastic for showing people what can be achieved at the highest level, but why not also show the events on the way to the Olympics? The lower level competitions, the up-and-coming athletes... Show exactly how and where they are working their way up to the "big event", celebrate their successes every step of the way?

There have been a flurry of "Does anyone know where *X activity* clubs are in *this area*?", "How can I get my kids in to *Y activity*" tweets on my Twitter feed in the last couple of days. I have asked myself the same question after H was chatting to me about wanting to be a Hurdler. Where ARE these clubs? HOW can you get involved in them? Seeing our athletes compete at a lower level on regional television, if nothing else, would help get them out there, show people what hard work can help you achieve, make people more aware of how to take part and get their kids in to sport. You can't move for Football clubs in the school holidays - but where can you find an Athletics club? General sports?

I live about three or four miles from the county town, so you would be forgiven for thinking that there would be a massive variety of sports options available to my children. A quick search of Google would show you that you were wrong.

I have found Team Bath AC (which is the next county over and approx half an hour journey) which has the 365 Academy for 8 to 15 year olds. The only other one I found is Swindon Harriers, which is over an hour away, and they start taking children from the age of 7 upwards. For those interested in rowing or canoeing, there is BOARC. In Melksham (about 20+ minutes away) there is the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics.

But in the county town? Nothing. Not exactly inspiring, is it?

This weekend (August 18th/19th) everyone is encouraged to Join In Local Sport, where thousands of clubs and community groups are opening their doors to everyone to get them to try something new. Rather tellingly, the only thing on offer in the county town is a free 5km in the country park. In my town, there is the opportunity to join with Netball, and then in Bath there is Judo, Hockey and Volleyball. I really hope that lots of people will take up these free taster sessions and get involved, I just wish that there was more available here, where we live.

J plays Football for a local youth side (there are - of course - many youth Football clubs locally), and L & H are currently taking swimming lessons. H has expressed an interested in Hurdles, at the moment he is a little too young to join an Athletics club but the only option available to me when he does reach the minimum age would mean a two hour round trip for training every week. Unless of course one of you knows of somewhere more local, in which case please let me know.

In order to 'inspire a generation', the facilities and opportunities need to be in place and readily available in all areas, especially in places like the county towns. These sports and events also need to be visible. Advertise, televise... Show us how and where to get involved, and to get our children involved. Allow us to support and aspire to be like our athletes throughout their careers, not just once every four years.


  1. Great post! I totally share your feelings. I've posted today about how my own kids have been inspired. There is a pretty good running club in our town, but they take kids from 12. My daughter is 6, she's got a long wait.

  2. Thank you! I really think they should be doing more, it's such a shame that they don't have the opportunities.


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