Edition number 17; dateline 29 April 2009
Using what works to get people active
You’ll all pleased to hear that despite the demise of the original ‘tub’ (I still hear hissing in my nightmares) I have managed to find opportunities to contemplate the world from a variety of ‘bubbling pools’. This Tub is being written looking up at a vision very similar to the one shown to the right. Unfortunately I am not in the Caribbean but in the heart of Sherwood Forest. For those of you who don’t know, Nottingham and much of Sherwood Forest was a desert at one point. This explains the caves and the very sandy soil (great for growing carrots) but it doesn’t explain the palms. They are explained by the words ‘Centre’ and ‘Parcs’.
Yes, I am at Centre Parcs and absolutely immersed in the heart of an all-round leisure experience. Apart from a cemetery, these guys cover the whole leisure spectrum, from food to shopping, from sport to art (there is a chalkboard in the villa for us to create our own art, poems, pictures or recipes). They offer something for everyone, whether you just want to watch the world – and the odd duck – go by; drink at the bar or scream around with your backside on fire on your racing bike (at this point can I just say sorry if it was you I frightened to death when my tyre exploded).
I am sure that the good folks at Centre Parcs know what they are doing (consummate professionals all, no doubt), which is why the experience works. However, it has pushed me to thinking about how we engage people to be active. Families of all ages are ‘playing’ here but why do they play here and not at home? I expect that some of it is down to the fact that they have given themselves permission to have time off and can’t be tempted to do something useful around the house because they’re not there. But some of it is that the facilities lend themselves to family activity. In the sports centre there is everything from soft play areas to ten-pin bowling and snooker. Groups of family and friends enter and then all go their separate ways to do their ‘thing’ before coming back together in the bar for a bite to eat. Now some sports centres in the outside world allow for this but what they don’t tend to encourage is for children to be in the facility unaccompanied. It can be difficult for Mum or Dad (or whoever) to go and do their thing because they have to be there when the child finishes their activity rather than them going back to a central point. This is a challenging area for us to tackle because of all of the legislation, the poor behaviour of some young people and moral pressure put on everyone today. But if it can work at Centre Parcs I am sure we can do a little more out in the big, wide world.
I also wonder if there is something to be done in terms of marketing and publicity. We all tend to live in our own little silos, even those of us within the same house. Perhaps there needs to be more research into how we want to take part in our activities and then more publicity produced that both matches the findings and makes it ‘OK’ for us to ‘play’ together. I think now might be a good time to change this ‘only for young people’, ‘only for older people’, only for ‘purple people with pink spots’ mentality in the way our activities and programmes are sold to the population.
Why now, I hear you cry? Well, love or loath technology, it is beginning to break down these barriers and our marketing gurus can perhaps help us translate what’s happening in technology into something meaningful to more of the population. I have been observing the Wii phenomenon, which very much encourages the playing together thing I have been going on about. As professionals in the industry we could be a bit sniffy about the absolute accuracy of everything. Our Wii is currently telling me that I am not as ‘athletically able’ as Mr Tub, which is blatantly not correct, as he sweats at the thought of exercise and I have just completed my first duathlon of the year. But it bases its assessment on balance and in this regard, it is correct.
I could, at this stage, dismiss this piece of kit but I’m certainly not going to because it gets me active, it’s great fun, I can do it with family members from young to old, it will actually encourage me to work on balance and core body strength, and it allows me to check my progress. I have also been amazed at friends who, if I asked ‘Do you fancy going to an aerobics class?’ would shuffle a mile to remove themselves from my clutches but will happily hoola-hoop or step and jog along with the Mii for ages, laughing themselves into a heap as well as getting out of breath. Not only that, but they do these activities together with family and friends both competing with each other and encouraging the next person on. It also seems to be something which isn’t just a toy for Christmas but has continued to be used regularly.
How do we translate this into the wider leisure world? I’m not sure yet but I am sure we need to embrace this use of technology into our world in order to encourage people going out together to be active.
But I’d better get back to my relaxation: it’s on the timetable for me to relax now. Maybe that’s what I need in the outside world – a relaxation slot in my daily timetable? Now there’s a thought.
Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.
Tales from a tub
the last word in contemplative comment on the leisure industry
Kay Adkins, hot tub correspondent