What’s in a word?
fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
There are many words that society uses on a daily basis that are used out of context or over used, literally thousands of them. Ok, well maybe figuratively dozens of them. Maybe a dozen…? You can see what I mean.
Lots of people have a word that hits a nerve for them, for me it’s inspire or inspiring. Not that it’s used out of context, but I believe it’s over used and banded about very easily, and it’s all come about from the 2012 Olympics. “Inspire a Generation,” Lord Coe’s vision for the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 10,700 athletes, 205 teams 302 gold medals, without doubt, absolutely, completely, inspiring. In contrast “Pellegrini confident Manchester City fans can inspire Champions League victory…” Inspiring? I’m not so sure…
A quick Google of news results for inspire brings up teems of results. I’m not sure any of them were actually inspiring. I spent 10 years working in America running and managing summer camps. I literally met thousands of children; I shared my life experiences with them, taught them to sail, waterski and wakeboard. I don’t think I inspired any of them. Maybe I’m not inspiring, but I’m not sure any of the staff inspired the children either. And I firmly believe we had some of the most committed and engaging staff members in the business. What we did do was give them opportunities. Opportunities to improve themselves. No one was made to waterski, that was a challenge they set themselves.
Downey Birch is in process of completing a program for Sport Northern Ireland and I for one am glad to say it wasn’t inspiring. The word inspire didn’t feature in any of the documents, not in the brief, not in the proposal. Two words that did feature heavily were Improve and Chances and I think that’s what it comes down to. Give someone the tools they need to improve themself.
We took a group of 20 young people from across the province to the top, bottom and middle of the country and exposed them to sports that they wouldn’t normally have the chance to try through schools or clubs. We tried to give them an opportunity to find a sport that works for them, whether it’s surfing, mountain biking or golf. With great tuition, stunning backdrops and the right equipment the hope was that someone within the group finds a new sport that they stick to and enjoy the ongoing benefits of regularly taking part in sport
We were fortunate enough to a start our program with the beautiful, snow capped Mourne Mountains watching over us. We spent a day down at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre mountain biking and on their high wire ropes course. Experiencing mental challenges as well as physical.
Day two was up on the North Coast, taking in The Dark Hedges, more commonly known as “The King’s Road” to Game of Thrones fans. Followed by an short bike ride from Mussenden to Downhill. The afternoon was then spent in the expert hands (and wetsuits) of Long Line Surf School. Now my surf lingo is a little rusty, but I’m told the conditions were a heavy. My guess is this means good as the whole group came out with beaming smiles. Even one young chap who refused to get involved the week before at Tollymore was up on his board, laughing and splashing with the rest of the group. I hope we made a difference to him. I hope he can see how sport can make a difference to him.
Our final day was a little bit more relaxed, not much drier, but more relaxed none the less. We were at Blackwood Golf Centre channelling our inner Rory McIlroy and dreaming of green jackets. Paddy Wallace of Ulster Rugby, Crusaders Manager Stephen Baxter and Joe Quinn, former Antrim footballer and captain joined us for the day. They told us about the benefits of sports, even if we never play professionally. The day was spent driving, chipping and putting before putting it all to the test on the par 3 course. Whilst golf may have been a slow burner for some of the group I think everyone got a newfound appreciation for how skilful it is, in spite of how easy they can make it look on TV.
So in my eyes inspiring is just that, awesome, one in a million, not your norm and not something you see every day. Quite possibly we’ll only see it once every four years. Improving life chances can be the norm and can be every day. Regularly taking part in sport will improve your life; by making friendships, improving your mental and physical fitness and quite often seeing some inspiring scenery along the way. Sport doesn’t need to be on a floodlit pitch with a whistle, it can be what you make of it and sometimes you just need that chance to try it.