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How Scotland’s community sports providers can achieve more by being more enterprising and working in collaboration was the key item on the agenda when 108 people from across the sector met at Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, Edinburgh, on 4th December.

The occasion was SMN’s Enterprise and Collaboration in Community Sport in Scotland conference, which was supported by Senscot and sportscotland. The conference featured great presentations from a wide range of organisations, all focusing on how we can deliver better community sport, creating stronger local communities.

Here are some of the highlights from the inspiring presentations:

Bengy Barsanti, Community Sport Hub Development Officer, East Lothian Council spoke about Embedding Hubs into the wider community.

Bengy started by stating that community sports hubs must be locally planned, locally driven, locally owned and then they can become widely supported.

It is also important to recognise that embedding the hubs and clubs into the wider community is not a quick fix solution. It takes time and you have to be open to listen to, and learn from, the clubs and the communities you work with. You need to take risks and innovate – it’s hard, it takes time but it is worth it.

The community has to decide the pace, but the most significant aspect is that the clubs recognise that they are a service provider to their community. By working together to provide a better service to their community each club will become stronger and more sustainable.

This is more than community consultation or community development. It is community delivery, so clubs must make decisions based on community priorities and not just what suit their own needs.

By adapting this approach the Community Sport Hubs in East Lothian were invited onto The East Lothian Partnership, the overarching partnership responsible for community planning in the area.

This is raising the voice of sport, improving community understanding of the role community sport can play and helping clubs and hubs to play a stronger part in developing stronger local communities and a sustainable local economy.

Developing stronger clubs and engaging local communities was the title of the joint presentation given by Colin Hutchison, National Development Manager, Bowls Scotland and Tom Hamilton, Volunteer Development Officer and Club Coach, Woodend Bowling Club, Glasgow.

Tom Hamilton started by saying that when Bowls Scotland was formed in 2010 there was a recognised need for a better understanding of the sport. A comprehensive training and consultation programme revealed a number of challenges with declining membership and clubs ranging from being enthusiastic and well-performing to the poor performing, disengaged clubs.

They then focussed on developing stronger clubs and engage local communities. The organisation was modernised and clubs were encouraged to improving the customer experience and develop the way they utilised their facilities.

There was strong focus on volunteer education and development which included promoting and supporting good governance and improving business planning, funding support and retention.

The strategy for Bowls Scotland now focuses on increasing membership, develop increased support for clubs and accelerate their Volunteer Development Programme.

Tom Hamilton set the scene by telling how Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club was formed in 1909. 100 years later, the decline of the club meant that it had no junior members and 1 under the age of 50.

In 2010 Woodend started to promote youth and community participation in the sport, launching its own website and Twitter feed, and hosting “Get on the Green” Community Participation events.  It has organised open days with Scottish international bowlers giving coaching to juniors, offered junior multi sport coaching camps, after school club training camps with out of school clubs, junior coaching programmes and club community days.

As a direct result the club attracted 400 children onto its greens in just one year.

Led by volunteers and members of Jordanhill’s Woodend Bowling Club, the inaugural GlasBowl2012 introduced 350 P6 boys and girls to the game by targeting its seven local primary schools.

The children took part in two coaching sessions at the club, culminating in the GlasBowl2012 final in June between 48 of the best pupils, all selected by their classmates.

The club started rolling out the programme to local clubs who support the coaching programme, so 1000 Glasgow children tried bowling before the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Tom Hamilton also told that the assault bowls courses are very popular with the juniors who are encouraged to design their own crazy courses for bowling coaching.

The junior section now calls themselves The Warriors and the club has introduced a Family Membership and with all the hard work and successes under the belt, Woodend is set for a sustainable and viable future.

Inspiring a community to be active today for a healthy tomorrow was the title of the presentation given by Billy Brotton, Community Sports Hub Officer, Tryst Community Sports Club Limited, Amy Noble, Falkirk Active Schools Manager and Jamie Swinney, former Hub Officer/ Stenhousemuir FC Development Officer now Head of Children’s Academy Forth Valley Football Academy.

Tryst Community Sports Club is a ‘partnership” between Larbert High School which acts as the focal point, Falkirk Community Trust (who provide sport and leisure within the Council), Stenhousemuir FC one of the most pro active clubs in Scotland) and the 17 sports clubs connected with the Trust (some of whom are brand new and didn’t exist before and others who have made TCSC their ‘home’).

The aims were to

engage the local community in physical activity and sport.

provide opportunities to participate in enjoyable and assessable recreational activity

lead a cultural change which inspires those in the local community to lead an active and healthy lifestyl

The school’s rector Jon Reid and the the Chairman and now Director David Reid of Stenhousemuir FC were similarly influential in the process despite a tough financial climate. After the initial difficulties the Trust became a valuable partner and without the support of the Trust the TCSC would have been unable to progress to the stage it is today.

TCSC is very confident about the future, as they said:

We are continuing to change the culture and mind-sets…

  • We provide more opportunities: hook the pupils of our school and people of the wider community in further
  • We are creative in what we are doing –
    • £210,000 has been raised for a Bike Pump track, first of its kind in Scotland, to be built on an         unused bit of land directly behind the school.
    • A classroom has been converted into a fully functional spinning suite and we are expanding       our program into local leisure centres with our partner FCT
  • We’ve set ourselves ambitious targets, engage more with toddlers and 50+ category; create a social enterprise café and a new strength and cond. area within the hub.
  • Use the impact and legacy of Glasgow 2014 to help make all of this achievable…
  • NEVER been a better time to promote and engage our community in PA and sport and continue to work with partners – crime if we didn’t do that…