By Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
One thing that became abundantly clear during the global pandemic was the enormous power of community in combatting loneliness and isolation. Millions of people across the world signed up to Zoom and came together in online groups to offer support, information and inspiration to help each other maintain physical and emotional well-being.
Jersey Sport became a local lifeline for sports clubs and organisations who struggled during this challenging time, as well as offering an abundance of support and motivation to the public through online classes, social media marketing, local collaborations and school activities.
Now that sporting activities and events are (almost) back to normal, we want to highlight the importance of islanders getting more involved in sport at all levels – whether that’s playing sport, coaching, volunteering or simply cheering on players as a spectator.
Besides the well-reported health and fitness benefits of playing sport or taking part in regular activity, the community aspect of being part of a team or group – whether through playing, coaching or volunteering – cannot be underestimated.
Sport has the power to improve lives at all levels from grassroots to greatness.
Sport England’s ‘Active Lives Survey’ reveals that volunteering has a positive impact on mental well-being. Those who volunteer weekly, monthly or even occasionally, are more likely to feel satisfied with life, less anxious, happier overall and feel that the things they do in their life are worthwhile.
Volunteering can cover many areas of sport including organising fundraising, providing transport, serving refreshments, coaching, assisting those with disabilities and special needs, administration and committee roles, officiating or being a steward, marshal, referee or umpire. Plus, there’s always the opportunity to lend a hand using your skills in business, accounting, social media, logo/kit design, website creation and marketing.
What could you do to make a difference?
It’s unfortunate that many older volunteers have not been able to return to their roles, leaving huge gaps in sport’s ability to offer their full selection of programmes, races and events. In Jersey, the COVID-19 pandemic opened people’s eyes and hearts to the enormous benefits of helping others in the community and we’d love to see that continue across all charity sectors and into sport.
Nearly all sport is managed and delivered by volunteers, so there are many opportunities to get involved at all levels, offering your skills, assistance or time to enable others to take part in the activity they love. Even if you don’t want to commit to one sport, one group or regular times, why not show up to events and cheer from the side-lines? If you’ve ever been a sports player or race participant, you’ll know the emotional power and motivation that comes from an energetic, lively crowd clapping as you succeed and supporting you when things aren’t going so well!
The long-term effects of lockdown and isolation, especially on children and young people, are yet to be seen, but it’s fair to say that many hundreds of thousands globally will be feeling the negative effects for a very long time. With this in mind, I would love to see more and more sports clubs and activities open up to children and teenagers from all backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to develop their physical abilities as well as gaining vital skills in team work, team spirit and community service.
It’s great to see our parks and sports fields filled with life again, but I do believe the people of Jersey can still do more to take our island to the next level, and in our goal of becoming a world-class role model for a healthy, active population.
This summer, Jersey Sport is launching its long-awaited Get Involved campaign to raise awareness of the huge impact sport plays in the community and its long term social and economic value to the island. We’d love to see more people playing, volunteering, coaching and spectating at events, matches and training sessions so that more islanders enjoy the benefits of sport in so many different ways.
Sport England survey link: www.sportengland.org/know-your-audience/data/active-lives
This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 17 June 2021