Innovation and enterprise are key to the future of community sport

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 Innovation and enterprise are key to the future of community sport

To be really successful in community sport and physical activity we must engage the head, heart, hands, and yes, hormones!

No man is an isle

Innovation and enterprise are key to the future of community sport

To be really successful in community sport and physical activity we must engage the head, heart, hands, and yes, hormones!

A plan without passion is just delusional, a wish list and passion without a plan equals chaos.

The agenda within community sport and physical activity are increasingly focused on getting inactive people active and on creating social good and change through sport and physical activity.

 This is bringing together many bodies, institutions and people who previously did not engage with sport and who have no experience of working with sports and physical activity providers.  Also, many governing bodies and traditional sports bodies have little experience in working with ethnic groups, community enterprises, patient groups, youth clubs and the many other community organisations that engage with many of the inactive groups.

 But, the challenge is that if we are to attract and retain inactive people and play a broader role in society we need to think differently, have more empathy with groups with whom we have never worked before and be more flexible in the way we engage and communicate.


We must engage the head, heart, hands, and yes, hormones!

The Head will normally produce a framework, blueprint, strategic plan or something similar which are supposed to give an overview and structure to the project. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say.  The challenge is that there are too many cases where these weighty documents are produced in splendid isolation from ‘the real world’ and with little or no reality checks.

 Yes, there are lots of abort points, risk assessments and check and balances but the danger is that these fine documents are soon forgotten when they have been used to get the project approved.

It takes a very brave project manager to propose a review of the project against the original plan. 

The Heads do a great job of solving the problem on paper but don’t give enough consideration on how to motivate (heart) people to take action, or specifically what the direct reports (hands) need to be doing or how to involve those weird and wacky Hormones. Lots of high-power thinking, but that is about it. The solution is too theoretical, complex, or radical.

 Advice to the Head: Leave that office, go out and really learn about the lives of the people and communities you want to work with, have genuine empathy with them, be brave and tell your bosses the true version and don’t promise the earth. (Remember, all those promises may come back to haunt you):

What they say

“We will deliver the Olympic legacy we’ve promised”, Tessa Jowell, Olympics Minister, 21st July 2009

“Key London Olympic legacy ‘a failure”, Tessa Jowell, former Olympics minister, 5th July 2015

hearts love sport

The Heart represents by definition the emotive aspects of getting inactive people and for sport and physical activity to play a bigger role in people’s lives. I think that most of us work with community sport and physical activity, and have an emotional attachment to our work and involvement with the sector and the area.


But I have also met too many people who ‘love their sport’ and can’t understand why the BBC doesn’t show their sport day in and day out. I know I am exaggerating, but only slightly.


Yes, most innovators in community sport and physical activity embark on their journeys due to a passion for the area.  Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t ensure the hardship and set-backs they inevitably endure. But the successful ones understand that they have to work with the Heads, while at the same time use their Heart and community engagement to deliver real results.

Yes, most innovators in community sport and physical activity embark on their journeys due to a passion for the area.  Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t ensure the hardship and set-backs they inevitably endure. But the successful ones understand that they have to work with the Heads, while at the same time use their Heart and community engagement to deliver real results.


The sad news is that the Heads often only engage with the Hearts when the latter have proved their point.  Remember, the Hearts were not part of developing The Strategy.


We must ensure that the Heads who produce the strategies always involve the Hearts, Hands and Hormones to ensure that they survive and succeed when they have to be executed.  Flexibility and responsiveness are key.

bad hands and good hands

Out there in the community are the Hands.

They are the people who work at community or leisure centres or volunteer at sports clubs or community groups and generally ‘just get on with it’. They deliver, day in and day out, but many of them, unlike the Hearts, just want to deliver their stuff, coach whoever turns up at their sessions, but the notion of getting participants to take selfies to spread the word or sending out follow up text emails or texts, simply does not feature in their thinking.

The Hands are invaluable when it comes to delivering sport and physical activity to people like themselves, i.e., active people who turn up on their own initiative.  But often they lack empathy with inactive people and the barriers those people feel they experience – maybe they love sport too much to understand people who don’t?

Hormones think wrong

And then finally we have the Hormones

They are the ones who, come hell and high water, will want to make things happen.  Often, they have little time for strategies and plans; they just want to get on with.  In many communities they make a significant positive impact, often ignored and overlooked by the Heads.  If indeed they meet, the Heads find it very difficult to work with the Hormones as the latter use innovation and enterprise to make an impact. 

This doesn’t always fit in with strict frameworks operated by the Heads. 


So how do you use this? If you want to run a successful project, you really want to get to full engagement of the Head, Heart, Hands and Hormones.


Whenever working in change, when you are trying to understand people or when you are just trying to persuade them of something, it can be very helpful to consider all four H’s in your analysis and plans. If you can get the Head, Heart, Hands and Hormones all working together, then you can make a real impact.

 May 2022

Sports Marketing Network

plan vs reality

Northern Thunder Powerchair FC – a challenging and rewarding journey

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Adam Parry, Sports Development Manager, Percy Hedley Foundation

Another great presentation at

Disability Sport or Sport for Disabled People
A one-day conference focusing on how to increase
disabled people’s participation in sport and active recreation
16th May 2013,
English Institute for Sport, Sheffield

Northern Thunder Powerchair Football Club is one of the largest Powerchair Football Clubs in the world and is also extremely successful in its competitive elements. This growth in the club has taken place over 6 years and has been a challenge when taking in to account the cost of the sport and the physical disabilities the participants have.
Rising from one participant for the first three months through to over 40 weekly participants as well as satellite clubs around the region Northern Thunder has been at the forefront of Powerchair Football nationally and internationally and Adam Parry will present to you some of the elements of this challenging and rewarding journey. In 2012 they were presented with an EFDS Star Club Award.

Adam Parry has been involved in the development of disability sport and clubs for 16 years. He currently manages the Sport Development programme for the Percy Hedley Foundation and in particular leads on the development of Powerchair Football and Wheelchair Basketball. Within powerchair football he is also the Director of Competition for the International Governing Body, FIPFA.

What is your purpose?

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What is your purpose? Do you know?

Do your members, stakeholders know? Does the community know?

In the business world, it is a fact that purpose-driven companies witness higher market share and grow faster, all while achieving a higher workforce and customer satisfaction.Over the years I have asked leaders in sports clubs and bodies, public health bodies, activity providers and many others the simple questions: “What is your purpose? What are you for?”

To be honest, most of the answers were either all over the place or they were very narrow such as “we are a football club, we are a leisure centre or we are a sports body”. Those attitudes will not help create enterprising, sustainable organisations which can develop a real impact for members, stakeholders and the wider community, rather the reverse.

A clear purpose is everything to an organisation. It articulates why an organisation exists, what problems it is here to solve and who it wants to be to each human it touches through its work.

All our work over the years has demonstrated that sports and community bodies with a clear purpose create deeper connections with people and communities, attract and retain talent, and indeed funding and thus achieve greater results and impact

Authenticity is paramount

 Unfortunately, we have also seen cases, some bodies come up with a clever strapline highlighting their, alleged, wider purpose while at the same time continuing ‘just being sport’ and people and the community see straight through that.


To paraphrase Groucho Marx:

So here are some ways you can demonstrate your authenticity in everything you do:


  1. Tell your story and make it impactful, demonstrating your commitment to creating an impact
  2. Walk the walk by being transparent and accountable for everything you do. There is now incredible transparency and we all have data at our fingertips, and you can achieve ‘trusted status’ by opening up new connections while growing your impact and scope.
  3. Put all humans at the heart of your decisions, by leading with purpose by occupying a meaningful place in the hearts and minds of all the people you touch.
  4. Let the purpose evolve, revisit your body’s cultural DNA and engage with siloed people and refine who you are in the world

So why does your centre/club/body exist?

Where have you come from? How did we get here? What makes us unique to members, volunteers, partners and the wider community


Getting people on board

It’s paramount that you take people with you and that they feel fully connected with your purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen cases where that was not the case with members, volunteers and staff and the whole thing falls flat.

This can not just be communicated through a presentation/statement from the Chair and/or a glossy Powerpoint presentation.  This is about commitment and execution – day in, day out!

How Edinburgh Spartans Academy’s purpose is ‘Here for good’

The charity is based in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas, Pilton, and seeks to deliver a positive impact through the power of people and sport in the local community and beyond.

They seek to achieve this through the delivery of a wide range of community-based programmes. E.g. from various youth work-based provisions to opportunities for young people to enjoy recreational activities and the chance to play in a safe, clean and modern space.

They provide a wide range of volunteering opportunities for people of all ages and support the education of young people through their Homework Clubs,

Alternative School and by providing a full-time youth worker for 2 local primary schools.  They also deliver football coaching programmes for children from age 3-12 years. 

They are recognised as one of the leading sport-based charities in the country and held up as an exemplar project by the Scottish Government.

Since 2008, The Spartans Community Football Academy has been working with the local community and their partners to deliver programmes and initiatives that have a lasting positive social impact in North Edinburgh.


Here for Good helps Edinburgh Spartans make a massive impact during Covid-19

A social enterprise doing good…

Spartans Community Football Academy is mindful of the challenges facing many young people and their families in our local area. They operate their facilities and community coaching programmes as a social enterprise, reinvesting profits back into the business to support our positive social impact in the community. When you buy coaching sessions for your kids or simply have a cup of coffee in our cafe you are helping them to change lives through sport.

Dealing with food insecurity 

After thrusting into the food insecurity space in 2020, they needed to continue to play their part, to do something relevant and sustainable. In addition, they wanted to supplement and support newly established provisions created to help tackle this ever-increasing social need.

Their new ‘Roots Shoots and Scores’ food production and sustainability education programme was launched and has flourished this past year. As part of this new innovative programme developed in partnership with ReThink Food Futures, school children learn about social business and are allowed to lead, manage and run a weekly pop-up pantry, which provides local families with a weekly food parcel. Families are invited to make an affordable donation if they are in a position to do so.

 In addition, their ‘blue coats’ have played a key part in helping to support local children and young people this past year. New projects – such as Sphero Superstars – have helped to improve children skills set, heighten engagement levels and shine a light on the amazing talent and capabilities which exist in our local Primary Schools. Now more than ever, they are driven to play their part in helping to close an attainment gap that has sadly increased as a result of the pandemic.

Running their “Girls in STEM” programme


Their Still Kicking programme attracts women of all ages each week. A welcoming place to socialise and be physically active. Free to attend every Thursday in Edinburgh.

Next blog:

How Westquarter & Redding Cricket Club went from a small cricket club to a community hub and #MoreThanAClub