the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland two years later are bringing sport to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness and as the timing co-incides with the region’s four year plan to get Borderers fitter and healthier coming to an end the focus is now on looking at how successful that plan has been and where to go from here.
“There is no better time to review the Borders strategy for physical activity, sport and physical education,” said Councillor Graham Garvie, chair of the Borders Physical Activity, Sport and PE Forum.
Emphasising that the forum partners understand “the vital contribution that physical activity and sport makes to improving people’s quality of life”, Mr Garvie added: “It can improve health and well-being, help to create stronger and safer communities, contributes to improving education and benefit the economy - not to mention that it’s great fun!”
In a report to Scottish Borders councillors last week an outline was given of the six main goals the forum hopes to achieve by 2014, how they plan on getting there and who will take responsibility for the different elements.
Goal one is to establish physical activity as a normal part of growing for young people using both sports facilities and the natural environment.
Goal two is to ensure that all new sporting facilities meet the needs of local people. Having engaged consultants to draw up plans for sporting facilities across the region and consulted widely on those plans, the council last week approved a final plan that will see each of the nine cluster areas in the Borders (based on secondary school catchment areas) having a swimming pool, provision of a full size synthetic turf pitch, grass pitches, games halls and fitness facilities.
One of the reasons for developing a regional strategy is to attract external funding to help provide sports facilities.
If more people are to be encouraged to take up sport then there needs to be an increase in both the number and range of qualified coaches, leaders and volunteers across the region and this is goal three of the three year plan.
Goal four will be to provide support for the development of community based clubs and organisations which play a vital role in improving the health of the Borders population.
Goal five is to create a pathway for young people to develop their athletic potential through supporting key sports and working with key agencies.
And goal six aims to ensure that all pupils have access to two hours quality physical education a week, widening the choice and activities available to them.
Eight priority groups have been identified: pre-five year olds; children and young people 5-18; women and girls whose participation rates decline at an early age; people with disabilities who may have difficulty accessing activity and sporting opportunities; older adults; those who are physically inactive ; minority ethnic communities.
Helping them to improve their physical fitness and general health will be done by developing four areas - play, lifestyle activity, competitive sport and exercise.
Improving health and fitness through play can be as simple as skateboarders meeting in the local park, mums getting together to go jogging or going for a walk. Lifestyle activity is described as getting involved in an activity that may have a competitive element but that is not the main focus, examples of such activities are mountain biking, diving or taking part in a local triathlon series.
Competitive sport is organised and structured but it is enjoyed by a relatively small number of people in the region, whereas exercise that gets the body moving can simply be going for a walk.
In a positive view of the health and fitness of the region’s population Councillor Garvie concluded: “I look forward to seeing more Borderers ‘more active in more places, more often’.”