Schools, community and plain speaking

On the first day of the Scottish Sports Development Conference The Leisure Review took the chance to catch up with Sport Scotland’s Jacqueline Lynn who heads up their new school and community section. We found a woman prepared to tell it like it is.

Jacqueline Lynn pictured on the panel at the UK Coaching Summit

TLR: First of all Jacqueline, congratulations on your new job. Could you tell us about your journey to this point?

JL: I trained as a physical education teacher, had a few jobs, then got involved in sports development with a variety of posts across local authorities targeting the areas of disability, senior citizens and coaching. I went to Stirling where I was in local government for about eighteen years then in a leisure trust for the last three years. And now I am head of school and community sport at Sport Scotland.

TLR: And what does that involve?

JL: One of the key things it involves is the Active Schools network and how we can re-look at school sport as a bigger agenda beyond just Active Schools. And the second part is around the community sport agenda which is clearly, for us, about clubs, multi-sport hubs and the legacy of 2014 around community sport clubs.

TLR: Just for the English among our readers, can you explain the Active Schools programme?

JL: Our Active Schools network – it’s not a programme – is there to get all our young children more involved in physical activity; to get them more co-ordinated; to motivate them to get involved in sport; to create lifelong participation. We have an invaluable workforce of about 680 people out in local authorities working in clusters of primary schools and secondary schools, delivering physical activity and sport before school, in school and after school. And this feeds into school club links.

TLR: Do you have much truck with the Youth Sport Trust?

JL: Oh yes. We have a working relationship with the Youth Sport Trust and it’s one we are hopefully going to develop in the future. There are great  opportunities for real partnership working in our schools to really inspire our young people.

TLR: We have heard a lot about these issues from the [Scottish Sports Developpment Conference] platform and from the hall. Is there anything you have heard that made you sit up and say, “I didn’t know they felt that way about it”?

JL: No. Absolutely nothing. I think the debate has been fantastic. I think the concerns have all been in areas which we know we have to address. But now we have to take our time and find solutions for these areas; we’ve been talking about them for a long time. I think school sport is very important, the back-to-school network has made a big impact; we need to get that better. We need to engage with our physical education colleagues; get that better.

TLR: You really love what you’re doing, don’t you?

JL: I do. I loved today when you have the challenge of all the people from governing bodies and local authorities; [there’s] a whole range of professionals out there who really want to make a difference. That’s what been great about today; there’s been an energy about it.

TLR: There has been – and it’s been engendered from the platform – but in 200-plus people there has to be a couple of cynics, surely?

JL: When there are a few cynics I think it’s the positive energy we want to engage with. You want to work with the partners who want to work with you, the partners who want make a difference. Many of the people in here have been keen to tell us what’s not working but surely now is the time for us as Scottish sport with Scottish partners to make this work. Today, the big thing for me has been around clubs which previously have not been at the centre of things. It’s now about getting facilities right and ensuring accessibility and affordability, so that clubs have a home and we can build on that. The other thing that is crucial is the development of our coaches, teachers and volunteers because sport is about people. And these people will make it happen and it could be in a new facility, in an older facility, in the existing schools facilities that we have. And I honestly do believe that now we have a fantastic opportunity.

TLR: Can we talk a little about SportScotland? Where do you sit within the structure?

JL: Following the restructure, my director is Mike Roberts, who is director of sports development. Under that we have five key areas which are really crucial: partnership management, schools and community sport, coaching and volunteering, facilities and pathways. So I sit in that team. For me I think that SportScotland has got the right mix but we have to work across all those areas in an integrated way to provide help and support. I think our board and Stewart Harris have put a structure in place to do more for our people out there on the ground.

TLR: Of course the last time TLR was in Scotland – at the last sports development conference – we couldn’t get an interview with Stewart because he had to dash back to Holyrood to present to a committee. There was real doubt as to whether SportScotland had a future.

JL: It’s been a very challenging time; a time of change for SportScotland and I think Stewart, the board and key people in the organisation have worked really hard to make sure SportScotland was kept on the map. And hopefully Scottish sport will reap the benefits of that.

TLR: On the subject of Scottish sport, we’ve talked a lot today about 2014 and very little about 2012. The Olympics are very much ‘not your games’.

JL: Yes and no. We have a lot of athletes, or our governing bodes have athletes, who are part of a British programme and they will bring us profile and make sure there are Scots in the stands at 2012. But it’s a springboard for 2014. Our government are very keen on making the Commonwealth Games a high-profile showcase for Scottish sport and that clearly came out today. In terms of legacy, this is an opportunity for a small country like us to disprove the argument that there has never been any legacy from a major games. And government are very keen to start making that happen now. The whole Common Health programme places community sport at the heart of drive towards a fitter and more active Scotland, and if we can’t get legacy right now we’ll struggle to do it after the Games.

TLR: One last question. Sport for sport’s sake or sport for all the other agendas?

JL: I think it has to be a bit of both, which you might say is a cop out. Sport for sport’s sake is important for building pathways, for getting to the podium from the playground; but we do want a physically more active and fitter Scotland and sport can help do that. SportScotland is about putting sport first but we do also have a responsibility to partners and their agendas, and we have to work together to make Scotland a healthier Scotland and a fitter Scotland.

TLR: Thank you. Best of luck with your new challenges.

The Leisure Review, July 2009

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“SportScotland is about putting sport first but we do also have a responsibility to partners and their agendas, and we have to work together to make Scotland a healthier Scotland and a fitter Scotland.”

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