I am sure there are many thousands of people throughout the UK who, like me, always looked upon sport as an activity where one could relax in good company and do one’s best to learn, improve and compete at an appropriate level.
In other words the main focus being on participation and performance. Let me stress at the outset that these are hugely valuable and legitimate reasons for being involved in sport whether as a club, coach or participant and it is important that efforts continue to be made across all sports and activities to increase the levels of participation and performance.
However an awareness of the broader benefits of sport and physical activity have recently become more widely acknowledged. From a personal perspective it was unfortunately a tragic accident that was the catalyst to enabling me to fully grasp and understand the real power and influence that sport can have both in local communities and much wider afield.
I had happily been involved in motorsport for a number of years at World Championship level as Logistics and Business Manager for World Rally Champion – Colin McRae MBE, with the focus being on attention to detail and managing programmes that looked for incremental performance gains in order to be competitive at the highest level.
Then the accident happened – the tragic helicopter crash in 2007 claiming the lives of Colin, his five year old son Johnny and two family friends. I cannot begin to put into words the devastation and grief that this caused to all the families and friends of those involved.
Within 24 hours more than 60,000 messages of condolence were received from around the world. It was this extraordinary reaction that was to be the catalyst that eventually brought about a realisation that at least some good could perhaps come out of such a desperate situation.
Even at a time of such heartbreak the family were genuinely moved and surprised at the level of support that they received from around the world. It was the recognition of the impact that Colin had had on ordinary people that motivated the McRae family to set up a charitable foundation to raise funds for causes related to ‘Children’s Health and Education’.
Working in conjunction with championship promoter, Eurosport, we liaised with event organisers around the world to identify good causes in the local communities where the individual events were based. This resulted in a range of initiatives which generated funds for a wide variety of causes which included the provision of chemotherapy pumps for the Children’s Hospital in Larnaca, Cyprus / instalment of an X-Ray machine in the rural Hospital in Carlos Paz, Argentina and the provision of funds to pay for the education of orphans who had lost their parents through road traffic accidents in the Czech Republic.
Subsequent involvement as Baton Bearer Manager on the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games also played a huge part in cementing my belief in the power of sport.
Being in a position to read the thousands of wonderful nominations and to have the privilege of meeting community volunteers from around the country who were selected to carry the baton made a lasting impression on me. Hearing their stories and realising the selfless contribution and dedication over many years by this special group of local community sports volunteers was indeed a very humbling experience.
Indeed rarely a day went past throughout the 40 days on the domestic sector of the Relay when we were not reduced to tears by Baton Bearers’ stories of self-sacrifice and determination to overcome adversity.
These experiences convinced me that I should be giving more back to society in terms of my own contribution. It was therefore very fortunate that at this time the work of Sported was brought to my attention and I immediately felt a synergy with their objectives and ethos.
I was delighted to be accepted as a volunteer business mentor and subsequently to be able to progress to joining the team on a full time basis.
Being able to make a difference through supporting our ever growing Sported family is indeed a rewarding experience and one which I would have no hesitation in recommending to those of you who have a similar desire to make a difference to the lives of others through sport.
If you are interested in our work and would be willing to consider becoming a Sported volunteer then click here for more information about how you can become involved.