Edition number 8; dateline 7 May 2008
The opportunity to get away and get together
As we went to press send with this (slightly delayed) edition of The Leisure Review, I was delighted to receive the news of the official government all clear for the next phase of development for the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Having returned from a brief holiday trip to find an in tray full of threats and an Old Etonian from Henley in charge of the city of my birth, I was pleased to find at least one thing that had not gone spectacularly awry in my absence.
It also meant, of course, that our interview with Stephen Studd, chief executive of SkillsActive and one of the academy’s driving forces, was particularly timely. Comparing the account of our conversation with the details of the official press release, I was struck by the ambitions outlined for this nascent skills initiative. “It promises,” the release revealed, “to raise standards to a level where the sport and active leisure industry is regarded as a world leader in skills development by the time of the 2012 Olympic Games.” Usually the statement of great ambitions sits rather uncomfortably with me, suggesting as it so often does some self-serving hyperbole or marketing eyewash designed only to grab attention in the short term and to be conveniently meaningless over the longer distances. Seeking status as a world leader still tickles some atavistic instinct that the announcement of intended success is not to be encouraged in polite society. Too often have I seen our national sporting heroes getting up to gamely finish fourth with the ink barely dry on the morning headlines proclaiming that nothing can go wrong on the path to glory.
However, on this occasion I did not get that feeling. Mr Studd had previously explained the concept of the academy explained to me in some detail, the concept seemed sound and no one seemed to be promising immediate success. Why not? Call me a starry-eyed soft touch if you will but I get the impression that there are a few things in the sport and leisure firmament that we can get behind and this may just be one of them. Our regular reports from the front line of sports coaching suggest that the ambitions outlined by the Coaching Taskforce a few years ago are beginning to be realised and British Cycling has proved that ambitious targets mixed with a little vision and a lot of leadership need not necessarily end in tears. As Mr Studd points out, “It’s an opportunity for the industry to get together with one approach” and I’m all for that.
letter from the editor
The Leisure Review editorial