Concluding our series on sustaining the London 2012 legacy in East Lancashire, local government reporter Bill Jacobs reflects on his inglorious athletic career and what is needed to produce both our future Olympic medallists and a healthy next generation.
When I captained Burnley Hockey Club fifth team, the best moment was discovering a Darwen school playing the sport.
Twenty teenagers came to training . By season’s end six were in my knockabout side, five were in better teams and three in the firsts. Two played for the county.
That school provided the current captain of Blackburn Hockey Club first team.
Its inspirational teacher left. The school no longer plays. Burnley Hockey Club folded, and Blackburn struggles to field two teams.
This shows the crucial link between school and recreational sport and the talent to become tomorrow’s local heroes.
My school picked the 30 sportiest children at 12 for cricket and rugby, leaving the rest to rot on the field with a ball.
Only the need to fill an illegal school hockey team meant I started to play sport after being the kid no one ever picked.
School games must be inclusive and competitive. No kids play in the corridor with number bricks because they can’t do maths!
Selling school playing fields isn’t an East Lancashire issue but their continuing sale nationwide to pay for laboratories shows where sport comes in educational priorities.
This government’s axing of Labour’s school sports partnerships and games organisers is controversial. Everyone I consulted locally wants them restored and the red tape hindering teachers, parents and volunteers’ involvement slashed.
They want PE a priority in primaries so children go to secondary school in shape.
Research shows fit children learn better but heads rarely place pupils playing sport above boosting exam results.
Top universities consider sport when awarding places. Employers seek healthy workers but often their sports fields have gone. Couch potatoes watching TV sport want winners.
To achieve these aims, we need a pyramid that makes school sport inclusive and competitive from day one, then gets children of all abilities into the local clubs with the best going on to elite training and facilities locally.
That will create the pool of physically active teenagers to provide the fit, hard-working adults companies want and the successful sports people the nation glories in. It also promises adults free from ill-health and obesity caused by poor diet and lack of exercise.