In this calorie-counting, fitness-obsessed era when “athleisure” is as much a part of the catwalk and the high street as the treadmill, participation in grassroots sports is seeing a revival.
Sports clubs throughout the nation have benefited from people who have been dissatisfied by gyms, much as how the emergence of dating apps has now come full circle and singletons now want actual experiences over virtual talks.
In order to better understand the emergence of social sports activities and the additional advantages of engaging in sport, we chatted with Liam Clohessy, a primary school teacher with a Ph.D. in physical education.
So why is there a surge in athletic events?
For Liam, it’s really straightforward and harkens back to the way we used to tackle sports in the gym and on the playground. Before the Rugby World Cup, “The All Blacks were in an ad asking them about why they became involved as kids, and all of them spoke about how it was enjoyable, and a chance to play with their pals.”
There have been some connections made in the digital era, which was supposed to bring us closer together, but none that compares to the bonds created by shared objectives and interests. Playing sports might provide folks the outlet they need to fulfil their current yearning for authentic interactions.
Liam shares to us how sports organisations are making adjustments to better serve their communities and foster a feeling of belonging among their members. “Membership these days goes beyond merely playing; clubs often host organised walks and other events. Even if you aren’t a member of the high-performance team, you are still a part of the group.
Other advantages of that social component outweigh those of a straightforward gym membership. We are sociable creatures, explains Liam. You’re thus more likely to persist with an activity if you’re a part of a group.
And it may be a solo activity, like joining a running or cycling club, where you go out on your own run or ride but meet up and set off together, or you wear the club colours while engaging in that lonely activity. Again, you are still a part of a larger collective, and I believe that feeling like you are a part of a group motivates the great majority of people.
Avoiding the Issue
Liam portrays clubs’ “high performance” and competitive aspects as receiving more time and attention in the past. With the advent of over-35s events that focus more on offering a social outlet, activities like walking football for older members or former members, and generally more all-encompassing membership choices for non-playing members, this is also evolving.
That is a positive development for Liam. “There really does need to be a focus on participation. Obviously, you do need to have a place for the competitive aspect and high performance, but if you spend all of your time and effort into that, it’s going to be a skewed balance because it’s not going to be the majority of people.
The majority of individuals seek for activities they can participate in, places they can enjoy, and places where they can interact with friends or strangers.
Getting involved in
Liam would advise others to either join a sports club themselves or consider how their existing clubs might accommodate more people. Liam is engaged in sports in many capacities and has organised anything from 5-a-side football with friends to alternative sports summer camps for kids.
You’d be amazed at how many people like conventional sports but would also appreciate trying something new. You can try it out for a 4- or 6-week period to see whether you like it, but I’d highly suggest it.
“There are a tonne of eclectic and unique activities popping up in different places that might not necessarily have been there before, but once they start, and there is an avenue for them, you will get people who will try it out and see what it’s like – and if you have that sense of community, I think there’s a good chance that it will grow from there,” the author says.
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