Are we investing in the right places to get people active?

Are we investing in the right places to get people active?

When we’re writing policies, planning facilities, talking to clubs, writing funding applications, how much do we actually think about what drives people to take part in sport, physical activity, recreation? My drivers are captured in the banner picture for this article and others may have similar or different drivers.

We spend millions on new facilities, upgrading old facilities, but how much of that really makes the decision for that individual to go out and take part? Playing facilities are important, if not crucial – a lumpy pitch could be a broken ankle, a ruptured ACL, but will a modern all singing, all dancing supporting facility make that much of a difference over an old one or a less swish one which is well-designed, fit for decades and built to last? If we’re at a swimming pool, the cracks in the tiles and the rundown showers are likely to put you off, but so would a decent pool that didn’t feel clean or looked after, the scheduling awkward or the staff unwelcoming.

When we play an outdoor sport, it’s great to have somewhere clean and modern and unisex where we can change, but is it integral to actually playing our sport? Is being guided by quality, motivated, personable coaches within a welcoming and friendly culture more important? The facility is part of the experience but not the reason why you are out there on a cold, wet, dark night. It’s the iceing on the cake that means you can get warm and dry and then talk to your team mates after, but if you aren’t enjoying the activity, not learning the skills, getting the right experience is that sparkly facility going to get you out the door? Sometimes we are fortunate enough to choose where we play, but that choice is made through what meets our needs best. Most people as we move through life also diversify activities, choosing activities that best meet our needs, wants and desires as opposed to where has the best facilities. We may choose to travel further because there is a good coach, a good social group, the right environment.

I urge you just to indulge me and think about what has motivated you to exercise both in the past and now, what are the most important things, your drivers? And should we invest more into this, should we invest more into people who can help clubs, facilities and providers to develop activities and programs which best suit a lot more of our population? Could we make better use out of our facilities where carrying capacity is not impacted, get them to work harder and for more of the community, share our facilities so that we don’t have to keep on building more – the week exists beyond Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm? Why can’t they be used 7 days a week? Why don’t we get these facilities to be embedded community multi-sport and multi-activity hubs?

   “What if we were to invest in delivery and maybe a little less in infrastructure?”

My point is that people are our biggest and best resource, yet most of our opportunities are organised by volunteers. What if we were to invest in delivery and maybe a little less in infrastructure?

Our memories are created by people and feelings, not buildings, yet these integral deliverers are often unpaid volunteers, parents, community people and they aren’t increasing in number. It’s not unknown to turn up to activities and the coach hasn’t turned up. If we invested in our young people coming through, our players who would like to give something back and paid them a standard fee to coach (a stepping stone to employment for some) maybe we might be ensuring a quality consistent experience.

Camilla Briggs
Rec People Industry Expert

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