JENNY ADAMS: Inspiration to be drawn from Commonwealth Games and summer of sport
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There’s a lot of inspiring sport just now.
While I’ve not managed to watch much, the diversity and skill of Commonwealth Games competitors is brilliant, recognising the results of incredible work and dedication. It’s very special to have local athletes who have been supported and encouraged in our communities through huge challenges.
I did watch the final of the Women’s Euros – with the hoardings making the point that women play football, not some separate game called “women’s football.”
In my childhood I desperately wanted to play football, but I was a girl. To be fair, I also wasn’t particularly good, but that shouldn’t exclude anyone from the chance to get better.
For a while I got the opportunity to play with the boys in the Applegrove Primary playground, primarily because I provided the ball. I once nagged my way into a session at Forres Academy but was outclassed in the new-to-me environment of 5-a-sides.
I’m glad that in our schools and clubs gender is now less of a barrier to playing football. I’m also delighted that there are now more visible examples of great women footballers, with the hope that equal pay may follow the growing crowds.
It matters not just at elite levels, but for those of us who will never be particularly good. Not only does sport benefit us body, mind and spirit, but it can bring us into communities of participants.
To benefit we need opportunity and encouragement. I did find those in Forres Academy orienteering, through the legend who is Peggy Gordon. Then, as now, local youngsters reached great heights. I wasn’t one of them, but people were lovely, and I got out amongst the healing benefits of trees.
Beyond gendered expectations, I and a few other girls were also welcomed into the community of Forres Water Polo Club. We were encouraged to be the best we could be, and my lifetime sporting and fitness peak was probably captaining the junior team there in the 1980s.
Where do you find opportunity and encouragement to find community through physical activity? From dog-walkers through Parkrun to sports clubs and online networks, there are many possibilities.
But what barriers do people still face?
Are opportunities limited because of the cost of equipment, facilities or travel?
Is everyone encouraged, across gender identities, from every class and background, of any skin colour, with physical impairments and mental ill-health, whatever age, however skilled or not?
Do we still have expectations of ourselves or others that limit what we try?
These questions bubble up around sport but apply to every sphere of activity that could welcome folk into community.
Do you find yourself unable to join something because of barriers you or others put up?
Are you part of a community that needs to acknowledge barriers to others joining you?
I hope we all feel the inspiration and invitation of this summer’s sport.
I hope we can find opportunity and encouragement to get active. And I hope we can find community with others through shared enjoyment of the gift of life.