Brighton Table Tennis Club wins Club of the Year at Pride of Sport Awards

Hits: 41

To celebrate they release the single Build a Bridge (the first-ever by a UK community sports club)

Tim Holtam co-founded the Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) in 2007 and it has grown since then into a community of over 1500 players a week, including a Downs Syndrome Champion, boys from Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, a former UK Chinese Champion, top junior players from all over Brighton and local club players. 

They run 100 tables in parks, schools and prisons and work with refugee groups, travellers and psychiatric patients.
 
It began ten years ago as a means to help white working-class kids from Brighton’s deprived neighbourhoods.  “With those kinds of values from the very beginning, we’ve now expanded into working with adults with learning disabilities, children in foster care, refugees and homeless people.”

Any group that could benefit from some social engagement and some social inclusion and some fun through table tennis is welcome,” Tim explains.“In February 2007, me and co-founder Harry McCarney had two old tables in the Brighton Youth Centre; over ten years it’s grown and now we’ve got over 1,000 people a week playing on over 100 tables across Brighton in schools and outside.”Tim Holtam says ”It’s a place of hope, solidarity and opportunity. On a Tuesday we have young Irish travellers being coached by Afghan unaccompanied minors, the world’s first Table Tennis coach with Down’s syndrome and local white British kids.”

In May last year, BTTC became the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary. The Sanctuary title was previously only given to cities and schools. It is a grassroots scheme, created in 2005, that honours places that “take pride in the welcome they offer to people in need of safety”. BTTC has also been given substantial grants from Sport England to support its refugee integration work.

Tim adds, as an afterthought of the club’s progress: “Yeah, it’s become a bit of a thing.”

Pedro Santos, a formidable Portuguese player and BTTC Head Coach, is proud that there people from eight European countries and ten from the rest of the world – including Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria.

BTTC’s Harry Fairchild is the world’s first person with Down’s syndrome to officially qualify as a table tennis coach

 
On the same wall as the flags are four maps: three of the world’s populated continents – North America and South America; Europe and Africa; and Asia and Oceania – and a hyperlocal one of Brighton and its neighbourhoods.
 
Each new addition to the club puts a pin in the map to show where they have come from, and the mix is extraordinary.
 
A ‘Refugees Welcome’ banner – with all the letters spelt out in individual ping pong balls taped together – is the final flourish that completes BTTC’s backdrop.

A year on, I went to the first training session for my new age group. All my friends were up there from school and they turned their back on me. They never attempted to talk to me or make me feel part of it. When I did get a game, it was always as number 15. It was always me, corner forward. Never moved from their to another position, most times not getting any game at all.

I felt, at that age group, the coaches only wanted to coach their own sons and favourites. These players never attempted to pass the ball to anyone on the them, only themselves.

I would come home upset and disappointed and saying while banging my head off a wall, “why am I not getting a go at this sport”. But I kept going back because I loved the sport. At this stage I didn’t really trust my teammates, coaches and more importantly my club.

 

Ping pong might not seem like an obvious way of supporting refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as native-born kids born into impoverishment, but to Tim, it made perfect sense.

 “I think that the newly-arrived refugees that don’t have a support network – unaccompanied minors, they don’t have parents with them – they can come straight into the club and make friends, feel like they’ve got a support network, get good at something, get some attention, and learn English.
The refugees have benefited, but the host community – their peers, if you like – they’ve benefited because they feel like they’re helping but they’re also getting to know Farhad, Ahmed and Naqeeb. It’s just kind of seamless community cohesion through playing ping pong together.”, says Tim Holtam

Watch BTTC’s first single Build a Bridge click here 

There is certainly no shortage of evidence that one of the ways BTTC helps migrants integrate into their new host community is through learning the native language.
 
Pedro adds that English-speaking coaches at the club also help their foreign-born players with school work, and refugees to decipher complex paperwork.
 
And what of the club’s commitment to native Britons?
 
“We had a session here once about each flag on the wall: you had to say what was the country, try to count until five in that language and one curiosity of that country. We always had someone from that country to help,” Pedro responds.
 
“I think it works both ways – for migrants, who learn a lot about the British culture and speaking English and how to live in England, and for the British, I think they get a bit more culture, a bit more knowledge by learning from other countries and cultures.”
 
The club’s success on uniting migrants and struggling natives is an incredible feat, but really only the tip of the iceberg.
 
A boy who has ADHD says “I’ll be coming here when I’m 60.”
Another player, Chris O’Flinn, who has Down’s Syndrome, says: “It’s been a fantastic year for me because it’s like a family around here.”
 
He gestures behind him to the wall of flags: “Can you see the flag of Ireland? I came from Dublin, Ireland, to Brighton to be a part of the table tennis since Tim opened the fundraising for the refugees.”

Tim’s own mantra is simple, but underlines the humble nature of all BTTC’s volunteers, staff and coaches: “Get good at table tennis, get good at anything, and then pass the skills on to the next generation.”

 

If you want to have a chat about how we can help you and your club to become more vibrant, visible and viable just get in touch: svend@smnuk.com

 

 

Bridging the gaps

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Bridging the gaps

How policy-makers, grassroots-providers,sports bodies and health professionals could benefit from collaborating
 
Answer: Go on a DIET (see more below)

 Increasingly, we are experiencing two serious gaps that are affecting how we fund, develop and deliver community sport and physical activity.
One is the gap between our policy-makers/strategists and the people and bodies who deliver at the grassroots level. The other gap is the one between those who deliver community sport and the health sector.

Policy-makers and grassroots-providers need to engage

Often policy-makers/strategists are working in splendid isolation from the groups whose lives they are trying to improve and, and as consequence, produce strategies and policies which are less effective than they could be.  We experience many cases where policy-makers then run consultation processes to engage their stakeholders, but in most cases, it is ‘the same old’ who turn up at those consultations – this may explain why many of those policies are not getting the results that were expected. And, why we don’t learn and improve.

At the same time often grassroots providers, many of whom do a brilliant job often do not understand, or even bother trying to understand, how the strategists think and operate and therefore get left out when it comes to deciding on strategies and allocating funding.

It’s no good to say, ‘we are doing good work here, so give us some money’ and to be in constant campaigning mode and not be in a dialogue with the policy-makers.

Sport and health need to develop a better understanding

Often people involved with sport, whether as volunteers or staff, do so because they love their sport and are struggling to understand why the rest of society, and especially health, can’t appreciate the work they are doing and why it is so difficult to attract the funding they feel require.

We also experience coaches who feel that their quest for their under 11s  football team to win the league deserves free pitches, subsidies, etc. because ‘it is a good thing’. And no other questions should be asked.  There is a lot of focus on performance and pathway and not enough on participation, and the latter is exactly what the health people are focusing on.

You can almost say that community sport is having a ‘battle of the Ps’ as illustrated below;

The battle of the Ps…or Go Pro or Go Home 

Too often traditional sports coaches focus on winning and getting the best player up through the pathway and don’t really of those they leave out. (We do offer a workshop called the Welcoming Coach – see to the right).
That does deter bodies like public health and social inclusion from supporting most traditional sports providers.
So, sport has to realise that if they want access to health other non-sports partners they can’t use the ‘winning’ and ‘performance’ argument. it simply does not work.

Social prescribing – a way for sport to engage with health and the community

Social prescribing is one one of the new buzzwords in public health and it enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. It also to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities, which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

In Wales, there are 20.000 members of athletics clubs but 300.000 social runners. 15% of GP surgeries in Wales prescribe social running groups, such as Parkrun.

So, how do we bridge the gaps and create a more coherent, efficient and innovative partnership between policy-makers, community-providers, health and sport? The solution sounds perhaps a bit corny, but we are certainly serious.

Go on a DIET

Dialogue, Innovation, Engagement, and Training is the best way to bridge those gaps.

As we visualise below sport and grassroots need to stop campaigning for more money and support and develop a dialogue with policy-makers and health and other non-sports bodies. Inform and educate them of the great work they are doing and could be doing to help them to meet their targets and mission. (I am sorry, but if you still just want money for your juniors to win that tournament there isn’t much I can do for you, you are on your own).

Tell stories of the great work you are doing on social media and by staging Community Days and Open Days you can invite the whole community to your place

Our advice to policy-makers and health and social inclusion professionals is that you should spend some more time out of the office with the people you are trying support and work with them to get a better understanding of their world, their needs and capabilities. 

Listen and learn: then you can develop better relevant policies.

You will also getter better understanding of the Innovation that is taking place at grassroots level and how local people can develop and deliver services that best suit other local people.  Many of the great physical activity projects that are now spreading across the UK was started somebody with a local need and some drive: Just look at Our Parks, GoodGym and Parkrun.

This way we can also start develop stronger Engagement between these parties and begin to build deeper trust and understanding of what each party requires and can deliver.  Yes, this takes times and requires patience, tolerance and learning but we have seen many examples where it is worth it.

Finally, we should then develop Training programmes, using workshops, webinars, guides and case-studies where we spread the message and skills and knowledge to a wider audience. 

So, there you have it…go on a DIET and bridge the gaps between policy-makers, grassroots-providers, sports bodies and health professionals

If you need a hand or just want to have a chat, please get in touch.
Svend Elkjaer, 01423 326 660 or svend@smnuk.com

Are you ‘just sport’ or are you #MoreThanSport?

Hits: 77

Are you ‘just sport’ or are you #MoreThanSport?

That distinction determines your Scope, Partners, Income and Impact –
in other words: Grow your SPI²

Sadly, we still come across (too) many sports bodies, clubs and coaches who only see the world through the lens of ‘sport’, ‘winning’ and ‘performance’.  They think that the whole world should support and play the real, traditional versions of their sport that they have been practising and training for ages.

They only see their players as ‘sports’ people and have little interest in the rest of their lives. The notion that sport should play a wider role in our communities and in people’s lives is an anathema to them.  And yet they are the first to call for more funding and support for their sport and they are convinced that if only the BBC showed their sport day in and day out everybody would be really excited and rush down to their clubs.  Forgetting that the environment they provide to newcomers is often rather unwelcoming, especially to the less talented and able.

The good news is that we are experiencing an increasing number of bodies and clubs and other providers of sport who are benefetting considerably from adapting a broader outlook and deliver more than sport.

So, how they do that? 
What is the process like?

Firstly, broaden you must broaden your scope and get everybody behind that you are a place for everybody. 
Yes, you will have people within your board who don’t like change. 
But as the quote below states

Many traditional sports bodies and their clubs are suffering and are often closing down because they are too narrow in their scope. In our experience, you need a mix of new people with fresh ideas and enthusiasm, combined with some of the excisting group, especially those who support change.  (Note, based on many case-studies: Get rid of the naysayers. You will never be able to change them!)

You can now become a hub for your community and become relevant to more people, both players, parents and siblings.

 

Of course, the process of broadening your scope can be difficult and hard work, but we have seen it happen at many places and we have had the pleasure of working with a number of bodies and clubs helping them on the way.
 
You can now start looking at who you can partner with.  When you are ‘just sport’ you are not really relevant to many external partners, but with your new scope you can gradually develop relations with an increasing number of non-sportsc partners around you, as you can see on the Your Club diagram:

A couple of examples from the real world

Llandrindod Wells FC link up with Tesco through their community engagement
 
Llandrindod Wells FC are based in this town in Mid Wales with a population of 5,309. 
The football club are one of the clubs involved with the FAW Trust’s More than a club support and mentoring programme. 

Over the last six months, they have organised a Dog Walk, a walk to the top of local Pen-y-Fan mountain  (881 metres) and a great day out at the club for 200 young carers. 

Through all that good work they got in contact with Jayne Griffiths, Community Champion at the local Tesco Extra (every one of the 253 Tesco Extras in the UK employ a Community Champion).The two are now collaborating with all sorts of events, include a Diabetes Awareness Day and collection of sports equipment for Africa and Jayne is now helping the club with organising the Club Awards.

Jayne presented at the recent More than a club conference for the FAW Trust’s where she encouraged all the clubs to play a wider role in their community.

As Jayne said: “I  didn’t know anything about football but it’s all about being together, out there and making a difference. Football clubs need to be a part of their community.”

Cricket Scotland link up with a university, Pakistani community, Glasgow City Councillors and cricket for visually impaired people
 
Over the last few years, Cricket Scotland has evolved into one of our most innovative and engaging sports governing bodies.
An outcome of that change was the establishment of a partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University (strapline: “University for Common Good”) and Lord Taverner’s to employ Arran Ashraf as Community Engagement Officer in Glasgow.

Part of his role is to help transform some of Glasgow’s most marginalised communities and bring cricket to black and minority ethnic, migrant and refugee communities in Glasgow and build social cohesion and support integration. 

Part of his role is to help transform some of Glasgow’s most marginalised communities and bring cricket to black and minority ethnic, migrant and refugee communities in Glasgow and build social cohesion and support integration. 
 
Ammar has already set up a Tapeball cricket league and festival and organised a visually impaired cricket match played between a team of Glasgow City Councillors and people with sight loss.
The specially arranged indoor match pitched eight city councillors – wearing blindfolds or ‘sim-specs’ that simulate different sight loss conditions – against a team of members, volunteers and staff from sight loss charity RNIB Scotland. Visually impaired cricket, in fact, is played internationally and there is an International Blind Cricket Team.
It is also worth noting that Cricket Scotland receives awards from the International Cricket Council for their development work and innovation, on a regular basis.

By being vibrant, visible and viable Valley Gymnastics Academy has over seven years grown from 100 to 3,000 members and they now turn over £800,000. Only 100 members are competitive gymnasts, the rest are there for the fun and the exercise. 

By taking these steps you now, almost automatically, grow your impact on your community and on people’s lives.

It really is that simple. But, you have to be willing and able to take those first steps

 

You can learn more about the #MoreThanSport Academy click here

If you want to learn more about to become more inclusive and diverse and engage with inactive people, do get in touch

Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

Hits: 54

Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

Ever since some rugby players in the USA more 100 years ago introduced the forward pass and thus set the foundation for what is now American Football have we seen regular innovations in sport and physical activity.

Some don’t really last, but most are ignored, or even ridiculed, by people within ‘The System’

Often these developments and innovations are not developed by people at the top, but by some ‘silly’ people out there in the communities who then take their initial wacky and make it come to life.

So, here are some examples I’ve come across. I am sure there are many others, and if you have an example, please let me know. Also, when you look at these cases, I want you to consider how you can introduce new thinking where you are…as they say ‘innovate of die’.

Mermaid swimming (or Mermaiding) is making a splash

Over the last few years, swimming wearing a mermaid tail has become indreasingly popular and there indeed a number of males doing it, called Mermen.

You have to be a relatively skilled swimmer to be allowed to put on the tail, which, apparently gives you feeling of freedom in the water
Last September saw the first Merlympics being held in Dorset
Some public pools do not allow swimming with a mermaid tail is due to safety regulations, whereas others positively encourage it and offer Mermaid Experiences and Parties. One of those is community-owned Jesmond Pool

Being a mermaid is apparently a cross between free diving and synchronised swimming – with your feet strapped together

Hobbyhorsing: what girls everywhere can learn from the Finnish craze

In Finland, the beginnings of the modern popularity of hobbyhorsing among young girls stands as something of a mystery, though it is known that for some while the community flourished secretly online. Today, there are not just practitioners but coaches, competitions, judges.

Enthusiasts assign their horses names, breeds and genders, and along the usual displays of cantering, trotting and galloping, meetings will cover everything from in-depth discussions of grooming, bloodlines, temperament, and, on at least one occasion, a two-part dressage routine choreographed to a song by the rapper Nelly.

The 8th Finnish National Championships were held in June with 400 participants and 2500 spectators and you can watch a brief video here

If this seems an unlikely pursuit for pubescent girls in an age of Snapchat and Fortnite, it’s worth considering that hobbyhorsing is on the rise, having already spread to Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands.

Harry Potter inspires new fast-growing sport, Quidditch

The sport inspired by Harry Potter’s wizarding game continues to evolve worldwide with 40,000 players in 25 countries
Twenty-five years ago the word quidditch barely existed in the English language. Today, not only is this term instantly-recognisable to legions of Harry Potter fans as the primary sport in J K Rowling’s wizarding world, but it has also evolved into a real-life, international sporting activity.

Quidditch started out in the early 2000s as a sporting activity for American Potter-aficionados eager to recreate the magical broomstick competitions from their childhood tales. However, over the years the sport, which consists of athletes running around with a broom between their legs, has become a popular game among students and Potter enthusiasts alike.

The game as a mix of handball, rugby and dodge ball, and has been stated that it’s “very community orientated” and “extremely inclusive”. One of the primary rules states that a team – consisting of 21 players but with only seven allowed on the pitch at any one time – can only have four people of one gender playing during the match. The rules are very complicated, but you can learn more here

There is now a Premier League in the UK, which has just added a number of European teams and their finals weekend takes place at the 20,000 seater AJ Bell Stadium in Salford 24th- 25th August

Canicross sees human and dog leashed together for training runs and racing

Canicross is an an activity described simply as “running off-road with your dog”, although in reality there are many differences from just grabbing a lead and starting to jog. The most important distinction is that in canicross your dog runs in front and effectively pulls you along. This is possible because both of you wear a harness – your dog around its shoulders, you around your waist – and you’re attached together by a stretchy bungee cord. Also, you run on paths in greenspaces which places less pressure on the dogs’ paws.

The pace of Canicross doesn’t need to be fast and people of all ages and fitness levels can participate

So, this is all simple stuff. You decide whether you want to innovate and move forward or stay as you are and slide downwards.

Need a hand? Just get in touch

#MoreThanSport Academy Introductory Workshop Series

Hits: 92

A series of workshops introducing the core values of the #MoreThanSport Academy and providing practical examples of how to create positive environments that lead to positive experiences. Application is key, so all of our workshops are jargon free and packed with case studies and simple tools to help you put learning into practice.

House of Sport, 190 Great Dover St, London SE1 4YB

 

Are you engaging new audiences?

 

Welcoming environments for sport & physical activity

 

Friday 18th October 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm

 

 

Do you want to grow your great idea?

 

How to run your own sports enterprise

 

Friday 15th November 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm

 

 

Are you looking to achieve a wider purpose?

Partnering with the local community to achieve social outcomes

 

Friday 6th December 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm

 

Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

Hits: 51

Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

Ever since some rugby players in the USA more 100 years ago introduced the forward pass and thus set the foundation for what is now American Football have we seen regular innovations in sport and physical activity.

Some don’t really last, but most are ignored, or even ridiculed, by people within ‘The System’

Often these developments and innovations are not developed by people at the top, but by some ‘silly’ people out there in the communities who then take their initial wacky and make it come to life.

So, here are some examples I’ve come across. I am sure there are many others, and if you have an example, please let me know. Also, when you look at these cases, I want you to consider how you can introduce new thinking where you are…as they say ‘innovate of die’.

Mermaid swimming (or Mermaiding) is making a splash

Over the last few years, swimming wearing a mermaid tail has become indreasingly popular and there indeed a number of males doing it, called Mermen.

You have to be a relatively skilled swimmer to be allowed to put on the tail, which, apparently gives you feeling of freedom in the water
Last September saw the first Merlympics being held in Dorset
Some public pools do not allow swimming with a mermaid tail is due to safety regulations, whereas others positively encourage it and offer Mermaid Experiences and Parties. One of those is community-owned Jesmond Pool

Being a mermaid is apparently a cross between free diving and synchronised swimming – with your feet strapped together

Hobbyhorsing: what girls everywhere can learn from the Finnish craze

In Finland, the beginnings of the modern popularity of hobbyhorsing among young girls stands as something of a mystery, though it is known that for some while the community flourished secretly online. Today, there are not just practitioners but coaches, competitions, judges.

Enthusiasts assign their horses names, breeds and genders, and along the usual displays of cantering, trotting and galloping, meetings will cover everything from in-depth discussions of grooming, bloodlines, temperament, and, on at least one occasion, a two-part dressage routine choreographed to a song by the rapper Nelly.

The 8th Finnish National Championships were held in June with 400 participants and 2500 spectators and you can watch a brief video here

If this seems an unlikely pursuit for pubescent girls in an age of Snapchat and Fortnite, it’s worth considering that hobbyhorsing is on the rise, having already spread to Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands.

Harry Potter inspires new fast-growing sport, Quidditch

The sport inspired by Harry Potter’s wizarding game continues to evolve worldwide with 40,000 players in 25 countries
Twenty-five years ago the word quidditch barely existed in the English language. Today, not only is this term instantly-recognisable to legions of Harry Potter fans as the primary sport in J K Rowling’s wizarding world, but it has also evolved into a real-life, international sporting activity.
Quidditch started out in the early 2000s as a sporting activity for American Potter-aficionados eager to recreate the magical broomstick competitions from their childhood tales. However, over the years the sport, which consists of athletes running around with a broom between their legs, has become a popular game among students and Potter enthusiasts alike.

The game as a mix of handball, rugby and dodge ball, and has been stated that it’s “very community orientated” and “extremely inclusive”. One of the primary rules states that a team – consisting of 21 players but with only seven allowed on the pitch at any one time – can only have four people of one gender playing during the match. The rules are very complicated, but you can learn more here

There is now a Premier League in the UK, which has just added a number of European teams and their finals weekend takes place at the 20,000 seater AJ Bell Stadium in Salford 24th- 25th August.

Canicross sees human and dog leashed together for training runs and racing

Canicross is an an activity described simply as “running off-road with your dog”, although in reality there are many differences from just grabbing a lead and starting to jog. The most important distinction is that in canicross your dog runs in front and effectively pulls you along. This is possible because both of you wear a harness – your dog around its shoulders, you around your waist – and you’re attached together by a stretchy bungee cord. Also, you run on paths in greenspaces which places less pressure on the dogs’ paws.

The pace of Canicross doesn’t need to be fast and people of all ages and fitness levels can participate

So, this is all simple stuff. You decide whether you want to innovate and move forward or stay as you are and slide downwards.

Need a hand? Just get in touch.