Row Z edition 25; dateline 2 October 2008

The Baroness and the hairdryer
It is with genuine pleasure that Sideliner joins the queue to heap praise on the head of Baroness Campbell as she continues to raise the profile of sports development in the corridors of power. Sue – as we at Row Z like to call her – is, simply put, inspirational. She is personally charismatic, a compelling speaker and she works her backside off to make sport and society better. Sideliner often speaks fondly of the time during one of the many, many meetings about merging ISRM, NASD and ILAM when your columnist was careless enough to question the value to the sports system of the YST and/or sportscoach UK. Alex Ferguson can only dream of a hairdryer of the capacity employed by La Campbell that day.

Deathless in the city
We are indebted to our colleague at Leisure Media, Mr Pete Hayman, who brings to our notice the ‘Sweat in the City’ initiative which seeks to harness the word ‘sweat’ to a drive to engage “woman aged between 16-24 living in London who currently do little exercise”. Our surprise that the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation is behind this counter-intuitively named project – girls and young women cite ‘getting sweaty’ as a barrier to their participation in sport – is beggared only by that part of Mr Hayman’s deathless reportage where he tells us: “The scheme was launched by Jessica Taylor, wife of England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen.” Andy Murray’s latest squeeze not available then?

The FA: dynamic, decisive and gramatically questionable
And while we’re talking about the generally woeful attitude of sporty organisations to the distaff side of sport, we need to bring you up to speed on the Footie Association’s announcement that in 2010 we are to be treated to a summer-time Women’s Super League and more immediately the appointment of a women's performance manager to lead a new women's performance unit. ‘All good’ as the young people say, although the footnote gives a clue as to why 1.3 million girls and women had to start playing football before these developments were allowed by the FA Board. Apparently, and this is on the website, “The commencement of a new League is subject to the adjustment of current FA regulations, and a sub-committee comprised of four FA Board members will examine in finer details the operational aspects of its first year.” Now is that the epitome of the definition of the phrase ‘institutional dynamism’ or is this column printed every month in Homes & Gardens?

Another hat into the CPD ring
Despite, or perhaps because of, the vacuum at the heart of the sport and leisure profession since the demise of ILAM and NASD, all manner of organisations are contributing to the training, updating and, whisper that ugliest of modern idioms, upskilling of the sector’s managers. Latest into the arena, north of the border at least, is Stirling University with a series of CPD events for middle and senior managers that includes sessions on managing volunteers, sports coaching, preparation of strategies and the bugbear of all sports developers, monitoring and evaluation. The full series will be finalised “soon” and information will be available from the Stirling University website in due course.

Rolling along the Olympic highway
Is there no end to the number of entities prepared to claim they are responsible for the success of Team GB (and Northern Ireland) in Beijing? It seems that: “The Advanced Apprenticeships in Sporting Excellence are responsible for nurturing the talents of no fewer [and certainly no more] than six of the British team including Rebecca Adlington, the 19-year old double gold medallist.” While Sideliner rails against the hubris of agencies, we offer you this quotation: “SkillsActive, which devised the programme, had not expected to make an impact until the next Games in 2012.” Better than you think, guys? Unlikely.

Before or after?
Is it easier to win gold medals at the Paralympics than at the Olympics? Dame Tanni Gray won everything from the 100m to the marathon at one time or another and the disabled part of Team GB (and Northern Ireland) includes multiple multiple-gold winners, including a 13-year-old. Apart from Lord Hoy, the Blessed Becky and Wiggins the Magnificent, no Briton even doubled up at the big show, did they? Compare this to Sirs Redgrave and Pinsent who had to spend decades amassing their handsful of Olympic goldmongery. There are only so many, or so few, events that an Olympic athlete can compete in; you can’t double up in the 200m and the marathon, now can you? So after some debate and no little soul-searching this column is going to follow the BBC’s example and largely ignore the Paralympic Games. Perhaps if they were to be scheduled first we, and the national broadcaster, could treat the event with more respect than the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ attitude we found ourselves adopting this time around.

High-intensity ticking: the way forward for health
The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has published research from Loughborough University suggesting that the “heavy emphasis on fitness and competitive sport in many secondary schools is doing little or nothing to help curb the UK’s record teenage obesity rates”. The study, which used a sample of 110 PE teachers, showed that “too many PE teachers, particularly men, are still emphasising the importance of competitive team sports at the expense of more individual activities.” When asked to comment the Department of Children, Schools and Families is reported to have said: “We’re frankly bemused by this research.” Quite why the DCSF should be surprised by news that not all PE teachers are paragons of their profession surprises us. To quote researcher Laura Ward: “A teacher who has experienced lifelong success in sport is likely to want to focus upon competitive team games within their lessons. This then presents us with a persistent cycle whereby sport is privileged within PE and health-related exercise is marginalised.”  Just saying – and here we quote Steve Grainger of the YST – “Our responsibility is to ensure that in every school there is a world class PE and sport programme” is not enough. The vast network of partnership development managers, school sports co-ordinators, directors of sport and community sports development managers – not to mention our friends the competition managers – need to stop coming up with new initiatives in shiny packages, focus on what’s amiss with the system now and weed out (or re-train) the teachers who are “using health-related exercise lessons for fitness testing or instruction in the use of fitness equipment”. Because: “As a result, many pupils are turned off by PE lessons and are not developing healthy exercise habits.” Of course, they could all just keep drawing their salary and ticking the boxes.

Trendy events
Sideliner has noticed a slightly worrying trend developing in the world of industry events, although only for those of us who give a damn about sports development. Both the National Sport Seminar at Leisure Industry Week and the ISPAL affair at Sheffield were put together by consultants rather than by the managing organisations themselves. ISPAL’s 2nd national sports development seminar was programmed by Simon Kirkland of Sports Structures, while Capita Symonds’ Tim Cantle-Jones was responsible for the NEC programme. Both these gentlemen are well-respected practitioners and we have no axe to grind with either. Significantly they both know the industry they serve but sadly that is not true of the people who commissioned them. That people who aren’t ‘of’ the industry are responsible for events that define our industry has to be a concern.


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