Sunday, 12 August 2012

Inspire a generation - but to what?

I have seen how the past two weeks of Olympic action in London have had an effect on my little one, and while it would be fantastic if her sporting interest could be harnessed and turned into Olympic champion material, the legacy from these Games that I want for her goes much deeper - I hope for a complete national attitude change!

But first, I have to say how her interest in sport has been wonderful to watch. I once left her on the sofa watching the Olympic rowing on the TV while I went to make her lunch. Suddenly I heard a little voice happily singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat!" She then ate all her lunch as I told her that people who win medals eat fish pie!

After watching the gymnastic high bar exercises and hearing her say "I want to do that", I have also caught her on more than one occasion launching herself off the sofa into a forward roll and telling me she is "doing "nastics" - I knew it was a mistake to let her watch that!

I had to turn over from the boxing and Taekwondo though, as it was far trickier to explain why people who punched and kicked each other got cheered - I think I mumbled something about it being OK if you had special equipment and a referee but decided that not watching it was the easier option!

Her latest "thing" is saying she is going to win a race, launching herself off the far wall, zooming over to me, leaping into my arms then taking a step back, bowing her head and asking for a medal.

I think that at the moment she is more inspired by getting something shiny than doing the work to get it - but still, it's a start!

I am sure that similar things are happening in living rooms, gardens and playgrounds all over the country - so, what happens now?

Money and sport

The thing is, where do you start. Yes - V has shown an interest in various sports but if she wanted to pursue them - where do you go? How much does it cost? And what if she discovers she can't do it?

Parents also need to be inspired - they may already be motivated by seeing endless gushingly proud mums and dads interviewed on the BBC - but they must also realise that you have to make sacrifices and spend years ferrying your offspring to and from classes and shelling out cold hard cash to pay for it all!

Putting more dosh into sport is a difficult subject to tackle. Yes, I agree that sport has many benefits to do with health and self esteem and it would be great to fund it to the hilt. But another part of me would prefer any spare cash to be paid directly into the NHS and more general education. Yes - having a more sporty nation may cut some NHS bills but athletes don't go injury free for long either!

Putting money into sport is like buying a takeaway - a nice treat when you've paid all the important bills first.

It's also all very well saying that there should be two hours of sport per week in schools - great, if it gets kids off their bottoms - but the largely non sporty side of me says I would prefer my child to have a choice. Try it definitely, but not be forced to continue. Not everyone is sporty and no one should be made to feel they have to be, or feel bad because they can't run fast or jump high.

The English graduate in me also thinks that those two hours would be better spent on spelling and grammar.

Inspirational attitude

So yes - while I am sure that a many youngsters will now be inspired to become Olympic champions, being realistic, few of them will actually make it - whether cash is doled out or not because talent and support come into it as well.

That's why, personally I hope that the legacy from London 2012 goes beyond sport, and that the determination and dedication shown by the athletes is the bit that is harnessed and moved forward. Everyone has a chance to take that on board.

The bottom line is, I DO want the younger generation to be inspired by the performances of our top athletes - but for their inspirational attitude and normality more than anything else.

I want my little girl to be dedicated and driven to achieve and to try and be the best without the incentive of tonnes of cash. I am a huge football fan but have felt rather embarrassed these past two weeks about enjoying a sport populated by people who often don't seem to care that much - as long as they have a wad of cash in their pockets and the other trappings of wealth.

I want my little girl to be inspired to look up to role models such as the likes of Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Mo Farah and Laura Trott rather than Katie Price or anyone from TOWIE.

I want her to admire people who actually put some effort into doing something and having the determination to see it through, rather than be famous just for being famous. Those who work hard for the love of it, when the return is the knowledge that they have done it, rather than just planning another wedding when they need attention or an injection of cash.

I would rather she had a poster of Tom Daley on her wall than Harry Styles. I'd like her to admire a boy who worked for his A' Levels and an Olympic medal at the same time - and achieved both, rather than one who sings a bit and goes out with a lot of women.

Sporty or not,  I would rather youngsters looked after thier bodies as if they were heptathletes, rather than doing binge drinking marathons.

Our successful Olympic athletes are great examples of how hard work and being healthy can also bring adulation and if the Games drums that thought into our youngsters, then that's the best legacy that these home Olympics could ever hope to leave behind.

After Mo Farah won his second Olympic gold medal he said: "Anything is possible - it's just hard work and grafting". Yep! That's about it! Couldn't have put it better myself. That's what we need to get across - the sport is a side issue.

Oh yeah - and while I'm on it, if the brilliant Clare Balding can inspire some better journalism / broadcasting in the future - then that will be an added bonus!

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