Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations writes
What a summer of sport it has been! Whether you’re a sports fan or not, there’s no way you could have been left untouched by the sporting drama of the past two months. Although they were twelve months later than intended, for many of us they have proved to be a real tonic after an incredibly challenging year.
Last week marked the end of the Paralympic games. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen what dedication and grit really look like. We’ve heard moving stories of people that have refused to be labelled or believe that competitive sport wasn’t for them. We’ve been shown the true tenacity of the human spirit to overcome incredible challenges and achieve success on the biggest stage.
The past 18 months have been particularly difficult for people living with disabilities and complex medical conditions. People have had to shield during lockdowns and many haven’t been able to access the care they need. This has made the achievements of this year’s Paralympians all the more significant and shown that as a society we have a long way to go in improving accessibility.
The spectators may have been absent from the Tokyo arenas but that didn’t stop millions of us cheering on the Team GB competitors from our living rooms.
As we saw athlete after athlete take to the podium, I couldn’t help wonder about the journey that got them up there. Everybody starts somewhere. Whether it be the fastest swimmer, the strongest weightlifter, or the most accurate archer, all take that first plunge somewhere. But where? The answer to that question is easy: their local sports club.
Local sports clubs up and down the country are due a large chunk of credit for the successes of our GB athletes. Unfortunately, they have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Research has shown that over 25% of community clubs are at risk of permanent closure.
Beyond helping to nurture an array of Paralympic and Olympic talent, local sports clubs bring a huge range of benefits for the communities that they are rooted in. Most people that walk through the doors of their local clubs will never go on to the next level. But that doesn’t matter. Local community sports clubs offer a myriad of long-term benefits for people, contributing to improved physical and mental wellbeing, developing employability and social skills, and can be vital hubs for overlooked communities.
Community foundations have always recognised the value of grassroots clubs and supported them. Recently, as a result of our partnership with Made by Sport, the #ClubsInCrisis Fund has supported nearly 800 local organisations that help change lives through the power of sport.
As our summer of sport draws to a close, let’s recognise and celebrate the unique value that these clubs bring to the people and places they serve.
For more information, please visit: https://www.ukcommunityfoundations.org/.